Aung San Suu Kyi turns 64: 14 arrested in Malaysia

14 of her compatriots joined Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in detention on Friday, 19th June 2009. Their crime: gathering in Malaysia to show her support without bringing along their identification papers. Earlier that day, however, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia together with numerous other celebrities took part in the global campaign to show support for Burma’s Nobel laureate at the website None of the celebrities were arrested.

Amnesty International Malaysia in a press release (that I have only been able to find on Facebook) point out that all this happened on the eve of World Refugee Day, and that 9 of the 14 arrested are actually registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Yes – I know, we haven’t signed the 1951 Convention on Refugees, but surely we can be a little sympathetic to these poor souls who are fleeing from persecution. After all, they are only trying to show support for a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who has spent most of the past 19 years incarcerated after winning elections in 1990 which the military junta refused to honour.

Luckily the police did not stop the celebrities showing their support, but were on hand to protect us from the refugees who were holding some candles in the Taman Jaya park in Petaling Jaya. They were so busy protecting us from the refugees, they still haven’t caught the snatch thief who stole my neighbour’s handbag the other day and whose face was captured by their security camera.

Hopefully, UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin also won’t face any flak for calling on ASEAN to intervene in the situation in Myanmar, explaining that the principles of non intervention is a remnant of a past age:

.. ASEAN should take a strong stand and make clear in unequivocal terms that Myanmar’s membership would be suspended should elections not be forthcoming. ASEAN must also keenly observe the elections, if held, to ensure that they are indeed conducted in a free and fair manner, and its results obeyed, failing which punitive steps should be seriously considered. But before all that, Myanmar must be made to understand that there cannot be a compromise on Suu Kyi’s immediate release. Seen as a symbol of democracy, hers is a case larger than just another instance of unjustified detention. Elections and whatever demoratic reforms would ring hollow if Suu Kyi remains in jail or house arrest.

Whilst the principle of non-intervention has served ASEAN well in the past, it can no longer be the cornerstone of the bloc if it wishes to be taken seriously as a political force. Malaysia, as one of the founding members of ASEAN that remains a major player in the organisation, should take the lead in ensuring that ASEAN does not remain a paper tiger but actually transform into a regional body that upholds certain standards with regards to universally agreed values and principles.

The last time an MP asked the Malaysian Government to intervene in an overseas crisis, he was lambasted by UMNO politicians. Perhaps Khairy will fare better than Charles Santiago, since it looks like its fashionable to support Aung San Suu Kyi (if you are a celebrity) but not to support the Tamils being detained in concentration camps in Sri Lanka (unless you are Mercy Malaysia and helping the Government of Sri Lanka).

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Shanmuga K sometimes sees a purple banana emerging in his sub-conscious. An article seems to then be magically written. He is @shanmuga_k on Twitter. When he does not see those purple bananas, he practices as a lawyer at

Posted on 21 June 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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