Political motives behind the trial of Suu Kyi

May 19, 2009

Soe Paing- Soe Paing is Director of the Office of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, based in the U.S. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi for alleged violation of house arrest rules under Section 22 of the 1975 State Protection Law or “Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts” indicate that the incumbent military regime in Burma is not interested in the offer of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — National League for Democracy (NLD) — to join the elections scheduled for 2010 if certain conditions are met.

The NLD recently issued, what is known as the “Shwegondaing Declaration”, in which it was suggested that the Burmese generals (1) release all political prisoners, (2) review the constitution, and (3) establish a “genuine” (federal) union based on the principle of equality for all the ethnic nationalities… and the party would join the elections scheduled in 2010.

NLD Central Executive Committee Member U Win Tin said the action taken against Suu Kyi suggested that “the political future of the country is very bleak”.

In fact, the move by the Burmese generals is even worse than what U Win Tin would openly say. It means the generals are determined to go all out to marginalize the NLD so that the party will never become a real contender in national politics again. The generals have learned from the 1990 elections that even a hastily organized group of democrats like the NLD can overwhelmingly beat a strong, well-organized party backed by the military if the people are given the freedom of choice.

The generals do not want any intervention in their attempt to legitimize military rule through a constitution which was unilaterally drafted by the military through a carefully orchestrated national process.

The arrest and trial of Suu Kyi must be seen in that political context to understand why the generals are using the intrusion into the home of Suu Kyi by an uninvited American citizen, John Yettaw, as an excuse to charge her. It was a golden opportunity for the junta since her house arrest — termed as “unlawful” because it “not only violates international law but also national domestic laws” by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions — was about to expire on May 27.

The generals do care about international outrage over the handling of Suu Kyi, the Burmese icon of democracy. But, for them, facing international pressure is less of a threat than giving freedom to Suu Kyi — a leader that the people have long been waiting for to return.

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