Friday, May 15, 2009

Only UN can save Suu Kyi: expert

By Simon Lauder for The World Today

ABC -An Australian expert says that the UN secretary-general should personally intervene into the detention of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

There has been global condemnation of the military junta's latest move to keep Ms Suu Kyi locked up.

The charges against her, for allegedly breaching the terms of her house arrest, have been roundly dismissed by outside observers as both ridiculous and baseless.

But it could be just the thing to keep Suu Kyi out of the public eye until Burma's election next year.

Professor Monique Skidmore from Canberra University is an expert on Burma and goes there several times a year.

She says the country's military junta has made sure there is no chance of another uprising like the one which was led by monks in 2007.

"There are still monasteries completely depopulated from monks after the 2007 monk-led uprising," she told ABC Radio's The World Today.

She said the worldwide condemnation will probably not have great effect.

"I have a feeling that the only thing that may work to Aung San Suu Kyi's favour at the moment would be if the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, was to pay another visit to Burma," she said.

"I don't think anything short of that would be an effective intervention, although I doubt that we'll see any form of the house arrest order at least coming off in the next year or so."

Mr Ban has expressed 'grave concern' about the fresh charges, spokeswoman Marie Okabe says.

"The secretary-general believes that Aung San Suu Kyi is an essential partner for dialogue in [Burma's] national reconciliation," she said.

'Ridiculous' charges

The 63-year-old was arrested after a visit from John Yettaw, a mysterious American who made wooden flippers and swam across the lake which backs onto her home.

She was charged with breaching her home detention, which was meant to run out next month.

Ms Suu Kyi's attorney, Jared Genser, says the charges are patently ridiculous and the unwanted visitor is a mystery.

"What we know about him from news reports is that he's a devout Mormon, that he is a Vietnam veteran, and that ... he may not be entirely all there from an emotional standpoint," he said.

Ms Suu Kyi has been detained for most of the time since she won the 1990 election, and now Burma is preparing for the first national elections since then.

The 63-year-old is still enormously popular in Burma, and when she is allowed out, pulls a large crowd of supporters.

Mr Genser told Radio National the junta is more scared of Ms Suu Kyi's influence than it is of world condemnation, but Burma is playing a risky game.

"I don't think that they're going to listen to an outcry. The question is whether they have overplayed their hand here," he said.

"If they actually proceed to sentence her to that kind of time in prison, I think that it will be very difficult for allies of the junta, you know, particularly some of its allies in ASEAN - China, India and others - to defend this kind of behaviour."

Worldwide condemnation

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is deeply troubled by what she calls the "baseless charge" against the Nobel Peace laureate.

"We call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally, along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held," he said.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is also hoping the United Nations will get involved.

"It's very important that the political process is inclusive, and they have always maintained that they are in the process of doing so," he said. (JEG's: by arresting the opposition by the hour?..)

"For instance, during our last meetings, they talk about the continuation of releases of various people.(JEG's: yes, another amnesty is coming soon, early next year or late this year in preparations for the elections...)

The Australian Government has also repeated its view that Ms Suu Kyi should be immediately released.

But there is little doubt the charges against her are designed to put off her release once again.

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