South African President Nelson Mandela, whose own freedom from prison was won with the help of international appeals, said Thursday that such pressure would not ease Myanmar’s crackdown against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“She is a very eminent person, very courageous,” Mandela said of his fellow Nobel laureate at a news conference. But “we should not develop an independent attitude” toward Myanmar, formally known as Burma.
Mandela, who is visiting Thailand in an attempt to strengthen relations and drum up trade, has refused to challenge the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which had declared a policy of non-interference in Myanmar’s affairs - and which will admit the nation as a full member next week.
“We are guided here by ASEAN and any decision which is taken by ASEAN we will consider very carefully,” Mandela said.
He suggested the international community send a representative on good terms with Myanmar’s government to talk to the ruling generals about democracy.
“As a result of all the pressure put on the Burmese government, they have hardened,” Mandela said.
But that tactic has been tried before - and failed.
Mandela and Suu Kyi share similar histories.
Both are Nobel Peace Prize winners: he for helping negotiate an end to South Africa’s white-minority rule, she for her non-violent work on behalf of democracy in Myanmar.
And both have known the pain of imprisonment: Suu Kyi spent six years under house arrest while Mandela was jailed for 27 years.
South Africa faced worldwide sanctions in the years before Mandela became president, isolated politically and economically.
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