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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

To Promote Regional Peace and Stability, ASEAN must take Initiative to tame its unprincipled member

By - Zin Linn

The United Nations Security Council has finally adopted a presidential statement issued by the previous President of the Council, Ghana's UN Ambassador Leslie Christian, on Burma's ruling military junta, which brutally crackdown on pro-democracy activists during the ‘Saffron Revolution.’ Despite the fact that the original draft strongly condemned the military junta, the final statement released on 11 October 2007 only says, "The Security Council strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar and welcomes Human Rights Council Resolution S-5/1 of 2 October 2007." The statement also calls on the junta and all other parties concerned to work together towards a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution.

It also calls for the early release of "all political prisoners and remaining detainees," urging the military regime to prepare for a "genuine dialogue" with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However the statement does not mention the release of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The UN Security Council statement was watered down from its original draft to win the consent of China -- one of Myanmar's closest allies -- and Russia, which have previously vetoed resolutions for the establishment of a democratic regime in Burma.

Amnesty International welcomes the statement from the Security Council on Myanmar (Burma) which "strongly deplores" the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar. Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International said, "Obviously, we wish the Council had spoken out much stronger and had called for the immediate unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners of conscience. Clearly such releases are essential if there is to be any progress on the 'genuine dialogue' and 'national reconciliation' the Security Council seeks. The Council should also have stressed accountability for the grave human rights violations committed,"

But, the fact is that there was no immediate response from the junta's senior-general, who stubbornly refused to meet the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the past 20 years. Meanwhile, the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights watch group, reported on 10 October 2007, that Win Shwe, a 42-year-old member of the National League for Democracy, died in a police torture-chamber during the police interrogation. As he died result of torture, his body was not sent back to his family and the interrogators indicated that they had cremated his remains instead. According to Democratic Voice of Burma, a 48-year-old detainee, U Than Aung, died on 4 October at a detention center in Rangoon. He was arrested on September 27, and he suffered severe internal injuries, and died as he was not given immediate medical attention.

The opposition asserted that thousands were arrested in the September crackdown. The regime says 10 people were killed including the Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, in the crackdown and 2,100 people detained, but diplomats and dissidents revealed that the toll is much higher and as many as 6,000 people were taken into custody.

Rumours are rife that hundreds of demonstrators especially monks were killed. The security forces launched cruel cracked down on the peaceful and unarmed demonstrators with guns, batons and clubs. Many dead bodies and seriously injured persons were cremated, buried or thrown into to the river. Some dead bodies of monks have been seen floating in the river in Rangoon in early October. In addition, many detainees have been tortured during interrogation. There are 5 detention centers in Rangoon Division - (1) Kyaikkasan Police Detention Center.(2) Hmawbi Riot Police Detention Center.(3) Than-lyin (Syrium) Riot Police Detention Center.(4) Aung-tha-bye Detention Center. (5) Govt. Technical Institute (GTI) – and in each center over 1000 monks and civilians were detained.

Although there were detainees with serious injuries, they were not provided with medical treatment by the authorities. Moreover, captives have not been given enough food and drinking-water. It was a kind of torture that detainees have to sit all the time due to overcrowding of the cells they were held. According to reports, well over 700 people were held locked in a 30x70 feet room. The most terrible thing was that there were no lavatories and detainees had to use plastic bags for easing them. According to a released monk, at least 30 detainees died under harsh condition within 8 days while he was in GTI detention center. It was a nerve wrecking experience hearing beatings, kicking, torturing and screams or sobbing of the victims, said the eye-witness.

The beleaguered junta lashed out at Western countries and international media, accusing them of encouraging the ‘September Protests’. The state-owned newspaper, New Light of Myanmar described protesters, who continue to be hunted by the military across the country, as "stooges of foreign countries putting on a play written by their foreign masters."

Meanwhile, the junta has been going on with its cruel manhunt throughout the country. The main opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD) has made an announcement on 11 October 2007, in which it confirmed that, so far, 216 members including 15 Members of Parliament were taken into custody by the junta .

A popular Burmese film-star and social activist, Kyaw Thu, and his wife, Myint Myint Pe Khin, were also arrested on 10 October. Kyaw Thu had openly supported the protest and helped setting up a committee for offering food, water and medical treatment to the protesting Buddhist monks. Kyaw Thu's colleague, Zarganar, a comedian known for his anti-government mockeries, was arrested on September 26. It was not known of their fates after arrests. On 12 October, a prominent leader from the 88 Generation Students' Group Htay Kywe and three other activists Aung Thu, Thin Thin Aye (alias) Mie Mie and Ko Ko, were also arrested. All of them are members of the 88 Generation Students' Group, which comprises student leaders who were active in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. The London-based rights group, Amnesty International said in a statement that it believes that these high-profile opposition figures are at grave risk of torture and mistreatment.

Although the Security Council strongly deplored the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations, Burmese regime defied U.N. calls for an end to its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Current situation in the military ruled country is very seemingly a country under ‘invasion.’ People dare not sleep at night fearing that soldiers could break the doors enter their homes at any given time, without a legal authorization as rule of the jungle prevails. Families of political prisoners who have been detained over last two weeks were worried as they have not heard the whereabouts of their kiths and kin.

People seriously need the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to scrutinize all places of detention in order to protect the innocent lives languishing in the military dungeons. Families of missing protesters and local journalists are also hoping helps from the ICRC to get information or whereabouts of their loved-ones.

Although the UN Security Council's members agreed on the need to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue, Burma's military junta rejected the UN statement calling for dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition, sticking to its own seven-step roadmap toward development, but political analysts say that it is a sham proposal, aimed at military prolong its grip on power.

The Security Council’s statement expresses support for the early return to Myanmar, the UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who visited the restive Southeast Asian country to defuse the crisis, "in order to facilitate concrete actions and tangible results."

To relieve the people's concerns, Mr. Gambari should press the junta as a priority task for ICRC to have access to all detainees. An "early release" of all political prisoners and detainees should be also pressed. Genuine Dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, all concerned parties, and ethnic leaders should also be either supervised or facilitated by the United Nations. People of Burma put their hope upon Mr. Gambari of facilitating for such pre-conditions that may pave way toward promising phase of National Reconciliation and peaceful solution in this impoverish country.

As for the ASEAN countries, it is not enough urging restraint and calling for a peaceful transition to democracy, the grouping must come forward to support the good offices of the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and his envoy Mr. Gambari. Up to date, ASEAN member countries have been only appealing. A form of ‘lip service’. At least, ASEAN countries should convince Myanmar junta that the continued human rights abuses will damage the image of the 10 nations’ Association. In addition, Red Cross and Red Crescent missions have to explore ways of offering humanitarian assistance, especially medicine and sustenance to the masses who have been starving since the economic collapse due to the mismanagement of the country’s economy by the military junta.

Therefore, ASEAN should abandon its passive policy on Burma/Myanmar and help actively implementing reform processes in the military ruled country together with the UN's good offices. If ASEAN failed in its obligations and responsibilities for the people of Burma, there would be a danger of the spillover effects of disease, human trafficking and drug-related transnational crimes increasing rapidly in those countries in the near future. ASEAN should not believe in the junta's deceptive words that Burma's internal crisis is a solvable question without outside helps. As a civilized grouping, it must take note of the suffering and miseries Burmese people are experiencing due to the dictatorial regime of the military junta, nearly for the last five decades.

- Asian Tribune -

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