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The Hindu News (13/11/96)
Rights groups target Malaysia, Myanmar
>From V. Jayanth
SINGAPORE, Nov. 12 Malaysia and Myanmar have come
under international pressure and criticism for the incidents
during the weekend.
While Myanmar has been criticised for the attack on the
convoy of the Nobel laureate, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi,
Malaysia has been lambasted for the way it handled the non-
governmental conference on East Timor.
The U.S. and the European Union, followed by individual
countries in Europe, led by Great Britain, have conveyed
their displeasure to Yangon and cautioned the military junta
that if it allows such incidents to take place, sterner action
may become necessary on the regime.
Even embassies based in Yangon called for immediate
action against those responsible for the attack on the
convoy. japan regretted that the incident had come at a time
when contacts were being revived between the junta and the
The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
has denied any involvement in the incident and one of the
officials has made out a case of "sabotage". He argued that
the incident had been instigated by vested interests who
wanted sanctions against Myanmar to come into place. For
the administration to incite it or orchestrate it would be
counter-productive, he argued, suggesting that it was a case
Ms. Suu Kyi has lodged a formal complaint with the police
and called for action to identify the culprits and bring them
In Malaysia, many of the foreign participants detained at the
hotel where the East Timor conference was held have been
deported. They included two journalists. The storming of
the venue by youth wings of the constituents of the ruling
National Front and the arrest of the participants has evoked
condemnation from human rights groups and civil rights
movements around the world. They accused Kuala Lumpur
of bowing to please Indonesia and regretted that civilians
who had gathered for an intellectual discussion on a burning
issue should be treated like this.
Australia, the Philippines and Thailand were some of the
main sources of criticism, because many of the participants
were from there. The detained delegates have complained
of ill-treatment at the hands of the police and alleged that
they were not even given a drop of water.
Though the Australian leaders have amply conveyed their
displeasure at the handling of the event, all of them have
accepted it as a ground reality and said the participants
should have realised the consequences of going ahead with
the meet despite the ban.
It appears that the protests have been directed more at the
way Malaysia handled the situation, rather than not allowing
the conference to go ahead. As one Australian delegate
argues, "If we were stopped at the hotel on entry an,,
prevented from meeting, that would have hen different. But
what happened is that about 100 youths from the ruling
UMNO, the Malay Chinese Association and the Malay
Indian Congress stormed the hotel conference hall and
evicted us. The police waited for the youths to finish with
their task and then took us on to waiting police vans."
The Malaysian leaders have blamed the delegates for what
happened, arguing that when permission was refused, they
had no business to go ahead with the conference or seminar.
"We did not authorise the youth wings to take any action,
but we endorse what they did. The Government had
nothing to do with the incident," Government Ministers
Kuala Lumpur has stoutly defended its action and the ban
on the conference and said it did not want friendly ties with
neighbouring nesia to be affected because of such a meeting.
"Countries which want to champion human rights and offer
solutions to the East Timor problem are free to host these
conferences. We have nothing to do with this and made it
clear that the conference cannot be held," a senior official
said over telephone.
Human Rights groups have condemned the action and
accused Asean, the regional grouping, for blindly toeing the
line of the member-States without rhyme or reason. They
said the human rights situation in most of the region left a
lot to be desired. They criticised the Philippine President,
Mr. Fidel Ramos, for denying entry to the Nobel laureate,
Mr. Ramos-Horta, to attend a conference on human rights
in Manila during the APEC summit later this month.
Indonesia, meanwhile, thanked Malaysia for coming down
hard on the conference organisers and participants.
Government spokesmen as well as MPs congratulated
Malaysia for its "bold" action and conveyed Jakarta's
gratitude for not allowing a conference of that nature to
interfere with the internal affairs of the country.
State media blames Suu Kyi for incident
YANGON, Nov. 12.
A commentary in Myanmar's State-run press today blamed
the pro-democracy activist Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi for
Saturday's incident in which her vehicle was stoned.
The commentary in the New Light of Myanmar said Ms.
Suu Kyi was "tops in committing disruptive acts" and had
thus brought the attack on herself.
It also suggested that her National League for Democracy
(NLD) might contain "dissatisfied people" bent on making
trouble for their leader.
"No one can say with certainty that there is no schemer
among those who in reality plot to sacrifice her as a dual
stroke to clear up complications.
"It is evident that Ms. Suu Kyi is being surrounded by
internal and external enemies. Mr. Suu Kyi should see the
closest enemy," the commentary said.
The NLD leadership wanted to see riots and panic which
they thought could bring them political gains, but the crowd
got out of control on Saturday, the commentary said.
"Ms. Suu Kyi will get into trouble if she thinks that every
group she sees is her supporters. Upon reaching the stage
of being hit by stones openly she will have to exercise a
restraint," it said.
The commentary repeated charges that foreign diplomats
and reporters had tried to stir up the crowd.
It also acknowledged a previously unconfirmed report of a
stabbing incident on Saturday, but said it was an NLD party
member who had stabbed an outsider. - AFP