Stop tip-toeing around and save Suu Kyi

May 14, 2009

Zoya Phan– Zoya Phan is international coordinator at The Burma Campaign UK. Her autobiography, Little Daughter, was published by Simon and Schuster in April. The opinions expressed are her own. –

If statements of concern were enough to influence the brutal dictatorship ruling my country, then opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma would have been freed many years ago. It is impossible to count the number of statements from world leaders condemning the dictatorship, whether it be for imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi, crushing democracy uprisings, or blocking aid after Cyclone Nargis last year.

But while these statements are welcome, they are clearly not enough. Burma is not run by politicians or diplomats. The generals ruling my country are brutal killers. They spent years in the jungles of Burma engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic people. They use rape as a weapon of war, torture and shoot on sight. Babies are snatched from the arms of their mothers and thrown into the burning homes of innocent villagers. Landmines are laid in church doorways, deliberately aimed at those going to pray. Why do the United Nations and so many other countries think that statements and soft diplomacy is the way to influence people who are involved in such horrors?

Now, once again, Aung San Suu Kyi has been taken to the notorious Insein Jail. Once again there is an international outcry. So far, once again, the generals are ignoring it. How many times will we have to go over the same old ground before the international community wakes up to the nature of the generals they are dealing with? These generals are not immune to pressure. They depend on international trade and investment for their survival. It funds their luxury lifestyles and pays for the guns they use to keep their grip on power. They crave international acceptance and legitimacy, which is why they are pushing ahead with sham elections next year. They are vulnerable to real pressure, but it has never been properly applied.

It is time to hold Burma’s generals to account. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma has said that the dictatorship is breaking the Geneva Conventions by deliberately targeting civilians in Eastern Burma. That makes them war criminals. Why aren’t they in an international court? The International Labour Organisation has said the dictatorship is committing a crime against humanity for its use of forced labour. Why aren’t they facing a case at the International Court of Justice? The United Nations has also said that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is illegal under international law. Why has no action been taken?

It is time to stop tip-toeing around the generals, and treat them like the criminals they are.

In most countries if someone commits a serious crime they are hunted down, tried and imprisoned. Imagine if someone committed a murder in London, and the response of the police was just to issue a statement saying they are deeply concerned by the murder, and asks the murderer not to do it again, or they’ll issue another statement.

Burma’s generals belong in jail. Until they face a real threat of being held accountable for their criminal behaviour, they will keep on jailing Aung San Suu Kyi, keep slaughtering ethnic civilians, and keep ignoring the international community.


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It is a travesty that Aung San Suu Kyi has been imprisoned and that other atrocities go unpunished in Burma. I would like to add my voice to the international outrage against Human Rights in Burma.

Posted by Mrs Elizabeth Bennett | Report as abusive

It is horrifying that Aung Sang Suu Kyi has been kept captive for so long and suffered so much. International pressure against apartheid finally freed Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Why does the world not have the same power when it comes to Suu Kyi?

Posted by Jennie Morin | Report as abusive

With the support from the neighbouring countries we could get some relief as the generals care about the opinion and support from the Asean rulers, so far we only got 3 kittens, let’s hope the other cats roar before Monday 18th.

Posted by Jeg | Report as abusive

I’ll tell you in one word why the world allows Suu Ky to remain detained: China. Given its own human rights record China is reluctant to do anything that might shine an unwelcome light upon some of its own unsavory activities. We in the west however could do more by imposing targeted sanctions against the military regime. Am I correct to recall that France continues to trade as normal with Burma?

Posted by ian | Report as abusive

Please do not blame China for the problems in Burma or your own inactions and the inactions of your righter than right, whiter than white western democratic societies. What would you have China do? Go to war like your western countries do. What has the West done to resolve the problems in Burma…. nothing! Many ‘democratic’ countries have business dealings with Burma. As usual the double standards myopic views of some westerners is a constant in the universe.

Posted by Kei | Report as abusive

Unfortunately,the neighbouring coutries are also suffering huge civil rights injustices;albeit under the veil of democracy.In 2004,as a birthday present to the Thai King,The premier of thailand,mr Thaksin Shinawttra ordered the execution by firing squad of over 6000 alleged drug offenders.He vowed to clean up thailand before the kings birthday of 2005.It is documented that within 6 months,4500 thai nationals were then executed without trial.I find this most distressing.To think that even if Myanmar was forced into a democratic state,that it may forego similar unmentioned tragedies.
I propose this question to the media, ‘why is Myanmar being called Burma again? When it has been called Myanmar for over half a decade now.And why,when Thailand had 2500 students shot in 1992 whilst protesting for democracy,was this mentioned by BBC.Radio for 5 minutes,and then dropped?’ It would be refreshing for the World to see the Myanmar warmongers and mr Thaksin Shinawattra prosecuted for genocide under U.N law. It is unpalletable to see Thaksin Shinawattra buy Manchester City football club.This is also against u.k law,as he is guilty of genocide.Please lets see these human rights laws APPLIED by the U.N. .Thaksin Shinawattra was allowed to lecture at the U.N conferences,again distastefull under the cirumstances.

Posted by David Evans | Report as abusive

support from neighbouring countries? The peoples democratic republic of LAO. government main activity is the manufacture of heroin. China has been supplying arms to myanmar in return for gold and gems and oil.Thailand allowed Poll Pot to live in Ubon Ratchatani for over 10 years, in return for huge illegal wood supply from kampuchea. There is no help coming to the burmese people from surrounding countries.Huge amounts of money aid sent to thailand tsunami victims,dissapeared.

the whole area of south east asia is quite unstable.

The whole area is kept stable by the Thai King,when he dies,the stability will cease.vietnam is stable due to its oil finds.Cambodia still suffers its Gary Glitter dilema. Malasians are still wondering if that guy really did rape the other guy,and when will he do it again. Indonesia,how to govern so many islands? The whole are is a ‘soup of chaos’ of an extraordinary magnitude.
The world did nothing when China marched into Tibet,just as it would if China marches down into Myanmar,LAOS,Thailand,Vietnam.Lets give all our jobs to China,lets hear it for the Chinese and their motto, ‘what’s quality?’ God helps those who pick up guns and fight back.

Posted by Dave Evans | Report as abusive

Many countries had a dictator or a hated monarchy at some time or other.

And many had a revolution to get rid of them.

England, France, America, Russia, China …..

Come on you Burmese get off your butts and fight back.

Posted by Sid Holder | Report as abusive

Sadly to fight may be the only answer here…… Many will die.

War is terrible indeed there are no winners…. yet to allow things to continue as they are would surely be unacceptable. The people of Burma need at this time to show they have the courage of their convictions!!!

Posted by Peter Schwarz | Report as abusive

Perhaps Obama might like to consider a strategic ‘neo-con’ act of freedom promotion and military humanitarian intervention for regime change against real terrorists and purge Burma of its vile tyrants non-violence is not helping…

Posted by Leveller | Report as abusive

the core thing is that there’s no interests in solving the problem, now, all countries are realistic, no interest, no strong motivation, adding Burma is a small country, ingored by many other countries, the result is not surprising. but we are all humanbeings, we should do something together, stopping criticizing one certain countries!

Posted by cfj | Report as abusive

I agree with the article.
If only each of us speak out saying no to the atrocity in Myanmar, we can help to that population to be free of these generals that are thinking are the owners of the lifes, future and land of Myanmar.
Impunity is a dangerous simbol of the reign of Convienience and Violence in all the ways.


If we support Humanity and care of Human being suffering right now….these generals will be Globally turn down.

Impunity in low acts as murder, assasination, genocide, rape, use of basic needs of population for power and control, ETC. are a kind of atrocities that must be stoped.

How can we be indiferent to population sufferings?

Global institutions and countries that can influence and direct help to MYANMAR population must show that their are doing their job and not using empty words and laws.

Give service to the most vulnerable is a sign of FREEDOM and POWER OF THE HUMAN COMMOM VALUES.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive