Thursday, May 21, 2009

Suu Kyi’s Shrewd Message of Reconciliation

The Irrawaddy News

The lady in the kangaroo court of the Burmese junta made a smart and important move when she met with diplomats in the Insein Prison compound on Wednesday. It concerned national reconciliation.

The pro-democracy leader told the diplomats she spoke with, “There could be many opportunities for national reconciliation if all parties so wished...,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, whose ambassador met with Suu Kyi.

The statement said that she also “expressed the view that it was not too late for something good to come out of this unfortunate incident,” referring to her trial, in which she is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest.

Her words are so true and so important for the country. Suu Kyi didn’t emphasize her concern about the trial during her meeting with the diplomats. “She did not wish to use the intrusion into her home as a way to get at the Burma authorities,” read the statement.

National reconciliation is the only way to solve Burma’s political stalemate. In the past two decades, opposition groups and the international community have repeatedly called for it—and the military regime has turned a deaf ear.

To date, national reconciliation is just an idealistic dream for Burma. Certainly, it’s more difficult following the regime’s brutal crackdowns, such as its violent attack on Suu Kyi’s motorcade in Depayin in 2003, the monk-led civil protests in 2007 and the lengthy imprisonments of prominent former student leaders in 2008.

Such hostile and systematic blows against democracy by the junta make it harder for the two sides to reach reconciliation. But it’s clear, once again, that the opposition has the will to reconcile. The question is, once again, does the regime?

The answer is clear: No.

Just look at the generals’ show trial against Suu Kyi. They want her out of the picture during the 2010 national election, despite calls by the international community to make the election inclusive with the National League of Democracy party and other opposition and ethnic organizations.

Suu Kyi has tried to rise above the antagonistic moves made by the junta in the past and, instead, take the initiative to encourage reconciliation. The importance of her message to diplomats was that it was directed at the international community, both Western countries and neighboring ones.

After the meeting, Singaporean Ambassador Robert Chua, as Dean of the diplomatic corps, expressed the hope that there would be a peaceful national reconciliation.

He said Suu Kyi told the diplomats, “I hope to meet you all in better days.” Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya quoted the Thai diplomat who met with her that she also expressed the hope to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations one day.

The diplomats and their representative countries all understand that won’t happen in the near future. Because Suu Kyi’s detention will be extended by the generals, who have already written the lines for the trial’s verdict: Guilty, five years.

Among the diplomats, the British Ambassador Mark Canning accurately read the trial situation and the current political scene. “I think this is a story where the conclusion is already scripted,” he said. “I don’t have any confidence in the outcome. While the access we had today was very welcome, it doesn’t change the fundamental problem.”

He is absolutely right. The top leaders of the regime have already decided how many years Suu Kyi should be punished and where she will serve out the sentence—in her home or in prison.

As Suu Kyi said, it is important now to try to get something good to come out of this unfortunate incident. The international community, including Asean and neighboring countries, especially China and India, has to try to get something good out of this opportunity.

All countries are being judged like never before, in hope that this time they will take effective actions to influence the regime. It’s time to show more principle, more leadership, to be on the side that’s right—not simply on the side of power.

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