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Burma and Malaysia instigate mob vi
Subject: Burma and Malaysia instigate mob violence
Burma and Malaysia instigate mob violence
The Times of India (12/11/96.)
By Harvey Stockwin
HONG KONG: The governments of two Southeast Asian
nations, Malaysia and Burma, have both allowed, and
instigated, the use of mob violence for political ends.
This development is hardly surprising coming from Burma,
a military dictatorship. There, on Saturday a mob of 200
youths, obviously allied to the regime, attacked the long-
denied victor in the 1990 military-organised general
election, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she drove to meet some
members of her party, the National League for Democracy.
The military regime increasingly seems uncertain how to
deal with Ms Suu Kyi's determined attempt to keep the
flame of democracy flickering in Burma. Resorting to mob
rules suggests desperation on their part.
But Malaysia is ostensibly democratic, and the use of a mob
to end an unofficial conference by human rights activists on
the issue of East Timor is bound to damage the nation's
image. It is also likely to hurt Malaysia's ability to attract
international meetings and conventions to its first class
Two decades have passed since Indonesia annexed the
eastern Portuguese half of remote Timor island. But the
East Timorese struggle against Indonesia's often heavy hand
Indonesia's policy failure was symbolised this year when the
Nobel Peace Prize was shared by East Timor's Catholic
bishop and an East Timorese activist resident in Australia.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has all along
made it clear that Malaysia does not want to do any thing
which will damage relations with its ASEAN partner
Deputy Prime Minister Ibrahim earlier said that the East
Timor human rights conference planned for this past
weekend by Malaysian and foreign activists would not be
allowed to take place. Given the emergency powers legally
possessed by any Malaysian government, Anwar, who was
in charge of the Malaysian while Mahathir is away
visiting Africa, could have banned the conference.
Instead, the police acted as spectators while a mob,
composed of members of the youth groups associated with
the ruling National Front, rampaged into the conference,
assaulted some of the activists, and made it physically
impossible for the conference to even start. The police
belatedly moved in and detained all those attending the
conference. The foreigners are being expelled and deported
from Malaysia. Some of the Malaysian activists are still
Seven members of the mob which disrupted the conference
were briefly held but quickly released. Official complicity in
the mob rule is underlined by a simple reality. Malaysia lives
with the memory of how a brief moment of mob violence in
Kuala Lumpur on the night of May 13, 1993 was allowed to
extend itself into the worst racial riots the nation ever had
Since then, the police have been very careful not to allow
any mob violence, lest it quickly affect communal harmony.
The fact Aung San Suu Kyi that, on this occasion, the police
stood idly by, and let the mob do their work for them, can
only mean that they had been given orders to do so.
The use of mob rule in an effort to please Indonesia is
ironic, given that this year marks the 3Oth anniversary of
the ending of "Konfrontasi," a conflict initiated by the late
President Sukarno when he used mob rule in Jakarta to try
and prevent the formation of Malaysia. The incident is
bound to damage Malaysia's image as a law-abiding state,
and diminish the reputation of Anwar Ibrahim, who have
been speaking about human. rights and free speech.
Meanwhile, in Rangoon ' Aung San Suu Kyi was evidently
unhurt by the mob attack although the windscreen of her car
was shattered and Tin Oo, one of the NLD leaders, had a
cut on his face from shattered glass.
As in Kuala Lumpur, so in Rangoon, official connivance in
the incident was plain for all to see. The mob was led by
men wielding walkie-talkies. These items cannot be legally
possessed by private citizens in Burma. Diplomats were told
by members of the mob that they were being paid 500 kyats
each. Soldiers, normally quick to inhibit disorderly conduct,
stood idly by while the 200-strong mob went on the
Since some of the mob were seen carrying knives, this must
give rise to fears that Burma's military regime may be
thinking of assassination as a way of ending Ms Suu Kyi's
agitation for democracy. They are certainly trying to
intimidate her, so far without any success.