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BP: Burma sentences decency to dea
- Subject: BP: Burma sentences decency to dea
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 09:01:00
May 11, 1998
decency to death
The Burmese regime has served notice in the past two weeks
that it may have changed its name but the spirit of Slorc lives on.
The harsh holders of power have condemned a string of
opposition figures. The sentences have ranged from actual death
sentences to virtual death sentences. At the same time, the
military junta has made it clear it will not discuss or negotiate the
political future of Burma with anyone. That includes, especially,
the country's only elected leader and concerned foreign friends
It is difficult to say which is the worst breach of decency by the
State Peace and Development Council, the new name for Slorc.
The prison sentence of 25 years against San San could qualify.
She is an often outspoken Burmese dissident. She was
sentenced by Slorc to 25 years in prison for the heinous crime of
speaking against the government. She was paroled six years ago.
But late last year, San San spoke on the telephone to a reporter
for the British Broadcasting Corporation. The military regime
said that was treason, and San San went back to prison to serve
her former 20 years, plus 25 new prison years ? a total of 45
years. She is 60 years old.
Then there are the death sentences against two former student
leaders, Ko Thein and Khin Hlaing. The two were among six
political dissidents tried at a secret military court somewhere in
Burma last month. They and 38 others faced charges of
terrorism, including possession of explosives and plotting to
assassinate members of the ruling dictatorship. Details of the
charges and the court martial testimony were secret, and remain
that way. But it appears the main evidence against Ko Thein and
Khin Hlaing was that they tried to hand a letter on human rights
to a special United Nations investigator and personal
representative of UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Amid these displays of Burmese justice, a more predictable
street show was unfolding in Rangoon. Several US journalists on
a visit to Burma got the back of the junta's hand. They tried to
visit Aung San Suu Kyi at her Rangoon home. Military forces
ringing the home turned them back. The regime considers Mrs
Suu Kyi to be Burma's most dangerous person. This is why she
is continually and continuously harassed and mistreated, denied
even the most basic political rights.
This treatment of the country's only elected leader also displays
the arrogance of the regime, which has succeeded in having its
cake and eating it. In 1995, the dictatorship announced it had
released Mrs Suu Kyi from seven years of indefinite house
arrest. Since then, Rangoon has received credit for releasing Mrs
Suu Kyi, while continuing to keep her wrapped up. This has
reflected no credit to the international community at large, which
refuses to speak out against this unacceptable treatment Burma's
Each of these, and all of them, are warnings from Rangoon of the
price of dissent. The regime continues to promise to establish
democracy. But the fact is that the regime cannot tolerate
criticism. It is determined to hold power at all costs. Last week,
senior minister David Abel said the junta would return Burma to
isolation if necessary for the regime to maintain its brutal rule.
There is great need to show support for the people of Burma
now. The UN's Mr Annan must speak out to condemn the death
sentences imposed on two men who tried to give him
information. People everywhere must condemn the virtual death
sentence of grandmother San San. The world, and particularly its
Asean partners, must inform Burma that it is no longer
acceptable to make victims of its own people.
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Last Modified: Mon, May 11, 1998