Burma Campaign UK today welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but warned that the release should not be interpreted as a sign that democratic reform is on the way. Burma Campaign UK also called for the immediate release of 2,202 political prisoners who remain in detention.
“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is about public relations, not democratic reform,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “I am thrilled to see our democracy leader free at last, but the release is not part of any political process, instead it is designed to get positive publicity for the dictatorship after the blatant rigging of elections on 7th November. We must not forget the thousands of other political prisoners still suffering in Burma’s jails.”
It is the third time Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest. The last time she was released, in 2002, it was part of a UN-led initiative to try to persuade Burma’s dictatorship to enter into dialogue leading to a transition to democracy. However, when the time came for substantive discussions the dictatorship refused to continue the dialogue. At the current time there is no such UN effort. The focus of the international community has instead been on a failed effort to ensure elections were free and fair.
The international community should use the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as an opportunity to apply pressure on the dictatorship to enter into genuine dialogue.
For many years the United Nations Security Council, United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Human Rights Council, United Nations Secretary General, European Union, ASEAN, USA and even China has stated that the way to bring genuine change in Burma is for dialogue between the democracy movement, including the NLD, genuine ethnic representatives, and the dictatorship. The jargon used to describe this dialogue is tri-partite dialogue. This dialogue should lead to national reconciliation and a transition to democracy.
A revived UN-led effort to secure such dialogue, with strong backing from world leaders and the United Nations Security Council, must be the top priority. This must not be delegated to a new low-level UN envoy. The UN must learn from the failures of previous UN envoys, such as Razali Ismail, who did not have the strong international backing he needed, and Ibrahim Gambari, who tried a ‘hug a General’ approach of befriending the Generals, which failed miserably.
“The international community must seize the opportunity of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release to increase pressure on the dictatorship to enter into dialogue,” said Zoya Phan. “Ban Ki-Moon must personally take the lead in persuading the dictatorship to start genuine negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups.”
Burma Campaign UK has produced a detailed briefing paper on Aung San Suu Kyi, which provides a basic history, as well as analysis and information on past actions and future options for the international community.