The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) warmly welcomes the release of Aung San SuuKyi, the world’s most famous political prisoner, from house arrest on 13 November 2010.
Imprisoned for 15 out of the last 21 years by a military junta which has suppressed the people’s struggle for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, SuuKyi has emerged as an enduring, universal symbol of the eternal quest for freedom. Her indomitable courage and her unwavering perseverance have won accolades from individuals and groups all over the world. What is remarkable about her commitment to her cause is her ability to retain her dignity and her integrity in the face of formidable odds.
There is much speculation on why the junta set her free. Since a political party spawned by the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a farcical election by a huge margin a few days ago, the regime may have felt that its position is secure enough to release SuuKyi. On the other hand, given widespread allegations of electoral fraud, her release may also be a way of refurbishing the regime’s tattered public image. It is also true that for some years now, Myanmar’s ASEAN partners and even its close ally, China, have been quietly cajoling the regime to end SuuKyi’s incarceration.
Whatever the reasons, JUST hopes that her freedom will not be short-lived. She was released in 1995, after six years in detention. Then in 2000 she was arrested and imprisoned again for two years. After a brief spell of freedom, she was imprisoned for a third time in 2003. She remained in prison or under house arrest for the next seven years. ASEAN governments and China should go all out to dissuade the military junta from detaining SuuKyi again.
To prove that it is sincere about SuuKyi’s release, the junta should set free the 2,200 political prisoners languishing in jails in different parts of the country. It should also begin to relax its iron grip upon the media and allow social groups to exercise a degree of autonomy in their evaluation of the regime’s governance. Myanmar’s monks should also be given some latitude to act as the nation’s conscience.
SuuKyi would certainly want to encourage the regime to move in this direction. In this regard, she should be more strategic than she has been in the past. While holding on to her principles, she should act in such a manner that the regime will have no excuse to abrogate her freedom or to tighten even further its hold upon society.
Let SuuKyi’s freedom this time pave the way for the eventual liberation of the people of Myanmar.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)