Cardinal Archbishop of Yangon Charles Bo has called on the Myanmar military to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials detained on 1st February as part of their “shocking” coup.
After General Min Aung Hlaing, the army’s Commander in Chief, declared that Myanmar’s elections in November last year were fraudulent, he declared a one-year state of emergency.
Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counsellor and leader of the National League of Democracy party, was charged with the illegal possession of imported walk-talkies found in her house in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, according to NLD sources. The charge carries a penalty of a three-year jail term.
In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Yangon on 3rd February, Bo Stressing his role as a spiritual leader, Bo said that he wrote “with love towards all” and asked the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army) to free Suu Kyi, President U Win Mint and make good on its promise of democracy:
“When, in 2015, a peaceful transition to the elected government was effected by the Army, that won the admiration of the world,” he said. What led to the breakdown, he asked.
“You all promised peace and genuine democracy. Democracy was the streak of hope for solving the problems of this once rich country. This time millions voted for democracy. Our people believe in peaceful transfer of power,” he said.
Made a cardinal in 2003, the first in Myanmar’s history, Bo is something of a figurehead and is an outspoken advocate for democracy in the country.
Addressing the Tatmadaw directly, he noted that allegations of fraudulent elections “could have been solved by dialogue, in presence of neutral observers.”
“Now you promise greater democracy — after investigation and another election. Myanmar people are tired of empty promises. They will never accept any fake protestation.”
“You also promise to hold multiparty elections after one year. How will you gain the trust of our people?”
The people, he said, will only trust when “words are matched by sincere actions”.
“The elected representatives of our people belonging to NLD are under arrest. So are many writers, activists and youth. I urge you, respect their rights and release them at the earliest. They are not prisoners of war; they are prisoners of a democratic process.”