MUMBAI, India – Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has called on the Myanmar military to release the country’s elected officials – including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – “at the earliest” moment possible.
The military – which ruled Myanmar, also called Burma, from 1962-2011 – ousted Suu Kyi’s government on Monday, accusing it of not investigating allegations of voter fraud in the November 2020 elections that her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
Observers said the military have feared that Suu Kyi may have used her supermajority to change the country’s constitution, which the army had written to reserve several powers to itself.
In his Feb. 3 message, Bo called the coup “unexpected” and “shocking,” and said that he was praying “for an end forever to the periodic darkness that envelops our dear nation.”
“The world has reacted with shock and agony to what has happened. When, in 2015, a peaceful transition to the elected government was effected by the Army, that won the admiration of the world. Today the world tries to understand what went wrong in the following years. Was there a lack of dialogue between the elected civilian authorities and the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s armed forces]?” Bo continued.
“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,” the cardinal continued, lamenting the “unilateral” move by the army.
He also expressed doubts over promises by the military to hold multiparty elections after a year of military rule, telling them the “Myanmar people are tired of empty promises.”
“Sadly, 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. You promise democracy; start with releasing them,” Bo said.
The cardinal then addressed Suu Kyi personally.
“You have lived for our people, sacrificed your life for our people. You will be always the voice of our people. These are painful days. You have known darkness; you have known light in this nation,” Bo said.
“Truth will prevail. God is the ultimate arbiter of truth. But God waits. At this moment I offer my personal sympathies with your plight and pray that you may once again walk amidst your people, raising their spirits,” he said. “At the same time, I wish to confirm that this incident takes place due to lack of dialogue and communication and lack of acceptance of one another. Please listen to others.”
Bo also appealed to the Myanmar people to not revert to violence to protest the coup.
“We have shed enough blood. Let not any more blood be shed in this land. Even at this most challenging moment, I believe that peace is the only way, peace is possible. There are always nonviolent ways for expressing our protests,” he said.
“Let us not continue hatred at this moment when we struggle for dignity and truth. Let all community leaders and religious leaders pray and animate communities for a peaceful response to these events. Pray for all, pray for everything, avoiding occasions of provocation,” the cardinal added.