The situation in Myanmar (Burma) is getting more tense this week in anticipation of a verdict against Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, August 11. She is currently held in Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison, awaiting her verdict in a trial that has gathered worldwide attention. Given the fact that the “Four Eights” anniversary is to take place only 3 days prior to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi’s verdict, these two highly politically charged events can prove to be a galvanizing force for major protests. Looking at the regime’s track record of violent suppression of any dissent, recent developments justify major concern of what will happen in the country in the next few days. Last week, authorities detained 30 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), in an apparent attempt to block them from organizing protests on July 31, the day the verdict was originally expected. All those arrested are at risk of torture. While some of the opposition members were released, further arrests can be expected in the run up to the announcement of the verdict. If there are outbreaks of demonstrations in spite of government attempts to forestall them, there is the added concern that we will see violent tactics by the police and armed forces to suppress them like the ones we saw in the uprisings of August and September of 2007. Reports are indicating that the regime has heightened its alert and has deployed security forces in strategic areas of the country, something that is very characteristic of the government preparations to prevent suspected dissent.
- Amnesty International: Opposition leader’s detention keeps spotlight on Myanmar
- Human Rights Watch: Burma’s Amnesty Claim Sure To Be Yet Another Bluff.
- US Institute of Peace: Burma’s Long Road to Democracy
“(…) we have consistently had a very consistent public message that we believe that she should be immediately and unconditionally released, along with the 2,100 other political prisoners in Burma. I know Secretary Clinton has been very engaged with her colleagues, with some of her foreign minister colleagues. It was a topic at the ASEAN meeting, and she took every opportunity to urge her colleagues to make a similar message on the need for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released conditionally.” – Ian Kelly, Department of State, July 30, 2009.
“Suu Kyi’s continued detention, isolation, and show trial based on spurious charges cast serious doubt on the Burmese regime’s willingness to be a responsible member of the international community.” President Obama, May 26, 2009.
SRI LANKA – Local elections without independent monitors
There are growing concerns over the upcoming August 8 local elections due to the prohibition of media and independent monitors of the first elections since the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers. This Saturday’s elections in the cities of Vavuniya and Jaffna are being hyped up by the government as the first democratic elections in this war-torn region.
The two cities fall just on the other side of the former de facto state of the Tamil Tigers in the north. Tamils remain the majority in the area. The cities in which the elections are held are surrounded by checkpoints, only accessible with permission from the Defense Ministry. Lakshman Hulugalle, the head of the government’s security information center, stated that reporters will not be allowed into the cities to report on the elections, relying solely on handouts from the government. The Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa originally stated to let civilians who lived in the Tamil Tigers’ self-declared state to vote in an election. However, close to 300,000 civilians are currently held in military run de-facto internment camps.
- The Economist’s Intelligence Unit Briefing Where Next for Sri Lanka’s Tamils?
Coming This Week
- August 3: Secretary Clinton arrived in Africa for an 11 day tour
- August 4: Former president Bill Clinton arrived in North Korea to discuss the release of two American journalists
- August 8: Sri Lankan local elections
- August 11: Verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi expected
Jacki Mowery, Anil Raj and Jim Roberts contributed to this post.