Thaksin should not undermine, if he does not want to promote, the cause of democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Tuesday): Thailand’s Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra should not undermine, if he does not want to promote, the cause of democracy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom.
Thaksin’s swift transformation from leader of one of the more progressive ASEAN nations which had always given greater priority and importance to human rights, with him still saying at the end of last month after the Laos ASEAN Summit that the Myanmese military junta must reform before it takes over the Chair of ASEAN in 2006, into an apologist for the backtracking on democratic reforms in Yangon and the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the saddest episodes and great tragedies of recent ASEAN history.
After his recent trip to Myanmar a fortnight after the Laos ASEAN Summit, Thaksin made the startling and most deplorable statement that he found the reasons given by the Yangon government for Suu Kyi’s continued detention “reasonable enough and convincing”. This was an open slap-in-the-face for other ASEAN leaders and foreign ministers who in the past 18 months, had been pressing for Suu Kyi’s release – extending to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations General Assembly.
The people of ASEAN find it most shocking that Thaksin could bring himself to peddle the lame excuses of the Myanmese military junta for violating implicit and explicit undertakings at various ASEAN forums in the past 18 months since the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Pnomh Penh in June last year calling for her immediate and unconditional release, even quoting Myanmese leader Senior General Than Shwe that “the last three times that (Suu Kyi) has been released it would always lead to difficulties”.
Thaksin could not have any animus towards Suu Kyi but he is clearly motivated by the dishonourable motive to defend Myanmar so as to use its universally-known atrocious human rights record as a shield for the new human rights violations in Thailand under his premiership, in particular his trampling on human rights in his harsh and arbitrary handling of the South Thailand crisis.
So long as Myanmar with its atrocious human rights record remains inside ASEAN, Thaksin can hope to escape universal condemnation for its deteriorating human rights record because of the existence of one of the world’s worst human rights violaters next door.
On the eve of the new year, the situation in Burma is very bleak and grim, with the new leadership in the Myanmar military junta acting with even less restraint or respect for regional and international opinion, the latest actions being the one-year extension of Suu Kyi’s detention, the withdrawal of her personal security detail and further restrictions on the already limited access to her doctor – prompting worldwide concerns about her safety and security.
ASEAN governments, Parliamentarians and civil society should not allow Thaksin the monopoly of presenting to the Myanmar military junta and the world an alleged new but false ASEAN face on human rights, which is one of cynicism and hypocrisy, but should act purposefully to counter the recent Thaksin spate of anti-human rights forays by making clear that there is nothing reasonable or acceptable in Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued etention and demanding her immediate and unconditional release as well as for all other political prisoners in Myanmar.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman