The verdict handed down to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi by a kangaroo court in Myanmar is outrageous and deserves to be condemned in the strongest of terms. Consider the farce enacted in the court. The presiding officer finds Ms Suu Kyi guilty of violating the rules of house arrest and sentences her to three more years of detention. Then the military junta’s Home Minister enters the courtroom through the backdoor and announces that the term of extended detention i s reduced to 18 months. She was alleged to have received a guest — an American who visited her uninvited by swimming across the lake abutting her residence — in defiance of the rule. This happened just when her incarceration was about to end, and obviously the military rulers needed another ruse to keep her in detention. The trial began promptly and the verdict was very much on expected lines, though the whole world knew it was a farce. Ms Suu Kyi has spent 14 years in detention, some of them in prison. Despite the continuing pressure from the international community, and more recently the personal message U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon to the generals, the junta has chosen to defy the world and doggedly pursue its mission to keep Burma, or what it calls Myanmar, under brutal repression and without development.

Obviously, at the back of the generals’ minds must have been the so-called general election they have scheduled for 2010. With this verdict, Ms Suu Kyi has been effectively kept out of the electoral process, and the junta would like to go through a sham election in an effort to gain political legitimacy as well. As British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says: “The international community must respond to this latest injustice with a clear message to the junta that its tyrannical actions will no longer be tolerated.” Experience has demonstrated clearly that sanctions by the Western powers alone cannot make much of a difference. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also tried to exert pressure on Myanmar to adopt the process of reform and go for an inclusive electoral process. The generals have once again displayed their resolve to continue with their repressive misrule. It is time the entire international community took concerted and effective action against the regime so that the country’s 50 million people were freed from repression and misrule. The Suu Kyi trial has shown that a soft approach to the military junta — in the hope that it will, in course of time, leave the task of governing the country to democratically elected representatives and step back into the barracks — is clearly not working.

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