Back up words with actionsNobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the living symbol of Myanmar’s democratization movement, was sentenced to 18 months of additional house arrest. The nation’s military dictatorship charged her based on unreasonable suspicion, depriving Suu Kyi of her liberty once again. We censure the harsh violations of human rights committed by Myanmar’s military administration and strongly urge the international community to resolutely stand up against the unjust decision - not only in word but in deed.
Suu Kyi has lived in a prison without bars for nearly 14 years of the past two decades. In mid-May, less than two weeks before her house arrest was supposed to end, she was arrested on unacceptable grounds. She was accused of violating the national security act and the terms of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American who swam across a lake to stay at her villa for two days. Right after the court in Myanmar on Wednesday sentenced the pro-democracy leader to three years with hard labor, the military administration announced that Suu Kyi’s sentence would be reduced to 18 months of additional house arrest, according to a commutation from the junta’s leader, Than Shwe.
Their intention is beyond question. They are trying to continue to bind her hands and legs tightly until after the general elections are held next year. We feel sorry that they are still afraid of a fragile 64-year-old woman. Considering the fact that her opposition party won a landslide victory when she was under house arrest during the general elections - taking 392 of 485 seats in the People’s Assembly - they have good reason to be fearful. At that time, the military annulled the general elections and amended the constitution to allow people from the military to occupy more than a quarter of the parliamentary seats.
Despite fierce criticism, the international community’s response to the reckless behavior of Myanmar’s military dictatorship has thus far been ineffective. The United States and the European Union are renewing sanctions on Myanmar, implementing an embargo on weapons exports, freezing the overseas assets of Myanmar’s military leaders, restricting the issuance of visas, and instituting measures to limit investment.
However, all of this is not having much of an effect, and Myanmar is resorting to brinkmanship. Part of the problem is that the international community has failed to create a unified voice. China and Russia raised objections to the measures, saying they interfere with the country’s internal affairs. So the United Nations resolutions supporting such sanctions never passed through the Security Council.
Myanmar and North Korea remain among the world’s worst violators of human rights. Nearly 2,000 people are still held in prison in Myanmar for their political beliefs. It is high time that the international community make concerted efforts to strengthen sanctions against Myanmar to help them realize that human rights as the highest universal value no longer falls under the “internal affairs” exception.