Khin Ohmar is a secretary of Forum for Democracy in Burma and a spokesperson for a campaign calling for the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The campaign started on March 13, Burma’s Human Rights Day. On May 26, the campaign announced that it collected more than 650,000 signatures from more than 150 countries around the world. Ohmar spoke to The Irrawaddy regarding the trial of Suu Kyi.
Answer: In this situation, the obvious factor is that international response is very important at this moment. The junta didn’t perhaps expect this much pressure. It has been so obvious to see how much the international community admires and respects Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They were seen to try to take actions rather than issuing statements as they did before. For example, there was huge support from the United Kingdom, as a government, which created a Web site with the intention of describing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. At least, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement. China and Russia will neither think of discussing it [the matter of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi], nor easily accept it. But due to the immediate response of the UK, US and France, a statement came out. Also, Asean and Thailand issued strong statements [on the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi].
Anyway, it is clear that most of the governments have plans to continue follow-up actions, not just issue their statements. It is different from what we saw before.
Q: What will the international community do if the junta puts Aung San Suu Kyi in prison?
A: At this time, the junta has to either release her or put her under house arrest, which is also unrealistic. So, I think the junta must give her a prison sentence. The international community is also aware of what the junta is going to do, and it won’t stop putting pressure on the junta.
The junta has been using ways to demean Suu Kyi. We have to see how much the international community and individual governments can cooperate with each other to seek a practical solution which is beneficial to our country.
It is not easy. That’s why [our struggle] has lasted such a long time, because China and Russia have blocked [the UNSC] from doing anything on Burma.
But I don’t see the international pressure decreasing. It will even increase, but what is needed from them are practical actions.
Q: What do you think about the role of exiled Burmese opposition groups?
A: We demanded Asean to send a special delegation team to meet with the Burmese junta and ask for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Another is for the US, EU and Asean to impose economic sanctions targeted individually on the junta. Currently, the international community is putting immediate diplomatic pressure on the junta. The UNSC should call an emergency meeting and pass a resolution on the Burma issue. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should actively show his personal involvement to draw up a plan in which all key countries are able to become involved and all parties can agree. When Mr. Ban Ki-moon goes to Burma to meet the junta, he shouldn’t accept anything without the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.
Another issue is that the US appointed a special envoy to Burma former but the incumbent President Obama hasn’t finalized it yet. Asean hasn’t so far had a special envoy as well. Therefore, we demanded the US and Asean appoint special envoys and send them to Burma for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We already told the EU special envoy to go to Burma. All of these are diplomatic means. If all these efforts fail to persuade the junta to stop the trial and release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, another step is for the UNSC to impose an arm embargo on Burma and to form a commission to inquiry into the crimes committed by the junta.
We are preparing to send these demands to the office of the UN secretary-general.