/ 12 August 2009

China urges world to respect Burma’s sovereignty

China said on Wednesday the world should respect Burma’s judicial sovereignty after the junta sent Aung San Suu Kyi back into detention, triggering Western outrage but only a measured response from its neighbours.

China, one of the few nations that stands by the junta, urged the outside world not to interfere in Burma’s affairs, suggesting Beijing would not back any United Nations action against the country.

Suu Kyi, a 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate, was sentenced to three years for violating an internal security law, but the junta said immediately after Tuesday’s verdict it would halve the sentence and allow her to serve the time at her Rangoon home.

Her lawyer Nyan Win said on Wednesday Suu Kyi had told him after the court verdict to explore ”all legal avenues” to secure her release. He said the appeals process could take time.

Security was tight near Suu Kyi’s home on Wednesday. Nyan Win said he had not received an answer to his request to visit her.

The verdict drew sharp criticism from leaders around the world and the European Union said it was preparing sanctions.

Western nations pressed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a statement condemning the sentence, but other countries, including veto-wielding members Russia and China, stalled for time.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said it was time for dialogue with Burma, not criticism.

”This not only accords with Burma’s interests, it is also beneficial to regional stability,” she said in a statement. ”International society should fully respect Burma’s judicial sovereignty,” Jiang said.

Analysts said Suu Kyi’s reduced sentence may have been an attempt to appease Burma’s friends and neighbours — China, India and Thailand, in particular — whose trade has propped up a state crippled by international sanctions.

Asean ”disappointed”
The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), of which Burma is a member, on Wednesday expressed ”deep disappointment” about Suu Kyi’s detention, following similar statements by member countries that stopped short of criticising the regime.

Asean maintains a policy of quiet diplomacy and non-interference in the internal affairs of its members, but the junta’s refusal to improve its human rights record has been the main source of tension within the 10-member bloc.

Critics have dismissed the trial as a ploy by the junta to keep the charismatic National League for Democracy (NLD) leader away from next year’s multi-party elections, the first since 1990, when the NLD’s landslide win was ignored by the generals.

The charges stemmed from American intruder John Yettaw’s two-day uninvited stay at Suu Kyi’s lakeside home in May. The judge said that breached her house arrest terms and broke a now-obsolete security law.

Yettaw, who had told the court that God sent him to warn Suu Kyi she would be assassinated, was sentenced to seven years’ hard labour in a parallel trial on three charges, including immigration offences and ”swimming in a non-swimming area”.

Many people in Burma expressed disappointment that she was again being detained but were relieved she was allowed to serve her time at home rather than in one of Burma’s brutal prisons.

”Frankly, I just don’t know whether to be happy or angry about it,” said Rangoon-based accountant, Myint.

Veteran politician Thakhin Chan Tun (88) said the verdict was ”very unfair and inappropriate” and aimed only at keeping her away from elections.

A commentary carried in three of Burma’s state-controlled newspapers on Wednesday said the decision to detain Suu Kyi should be accepted to allow the country to move forward.

Burma’s military, which has ruled the country with an iron fist for almost five decades, has been impervious to international criticism and reluctant to engage with the West.

The generals insist next year’s elections will be free and fair and will pave the way for a civilian government. Critics dismiss the polls as an attempt to legitimise army rule.

Debbie Stothard from the Alternative Asean Network on Burma said the reduced sentence and repeated delays in the Suu Kyi trial showed international opinion had affected the generals.

”This is clear evidence the regime is sensitive to international pressure and a sign the world has to keep pushing it,” she told Reuters. — Reuters