Aung San Suu Kyi: Free, but without liberation

The news that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest can be misguidedly assumed to be a victory for democracy, but the reality is that it is simply a further demonstration of the ongoing might of the Burmese Junta. While Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement that she is not bound by any restriction to her freedom at the moment (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11755169) is a credit to the ruling military government, it highlights the need for a change in the way international organisations like the UN treat countries that are overtaken by a military force.

Elected as the leader of the ruling party in 1990 and refused admittance to government by the Junta, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest. Despite trade sanctions and international recrimination, she remained under house arrest for the full period of her sentence. Clearly trade sanctions and international recrimination are not enough to motivate a military government to change its position.

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If the current reaction to military takeovers and political arrest is so ineffectual, maybe it’s time to review, amend and reinvent to ensure that situations like those in Myanmar and North Korea can no longer occur. Let’s say, out of the blue, Iceland is suddenly overthrown by a military coup; would the UN and international heads of state simply slap it with a trade embargo and a good tut-tutting?

The reality is that the UN will only really start to facilitate social progress, human rights and world peace if it is more instrumental in protecting the people that most need it. If this means moving to become more of a policing organisation, then maybe that’s something it should consider. The peaceful protection of people ruled outside of a democratic government, and the liberation of their political voice should be at the forefront of what the UN is tasked to achieve, and it is the responsibility of the world’s heads of state to assist them in this process as much as possible.

The big question, though, is what will they do if Aung San Suu Kyi steps too heavily on military toes and is put back under house arrest? They already appear to be unable to ensure that fair and democratic election are carried out.