Burma Is on the Wrong Road : Leader arrested for the startling offense of winning an election

Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a symbol of both the hope and despair of Myanmar, the Asian country formerly known as Burma. Nine months after a stunning election victory, Suu Kyi, leader of the victorious National League for Democracy, remains under house arrest. The country’s iron-fisted military refuses to relinquish power and figures that by keeping her out of sight, she will slip into oblivion. The world cannot let Suu Kyi be forgotten.

Her sad story illustrates the unrelenting repression of the Burmese people and the denial of their human rights. The military is contemplating putting her on trial as the world takes note of her plight: The European Community recently awarded her the Sakharov Prize. Czechoslovakia’s President Vaclav Havel has nominated her for a Nobel Peace Prize. Norway has awarded her its Rafto Human Rights Prize.

Myanmar, meanwhile, has become an increasingly dismal and hopeless place. Not only has the State Law and Order Restoration Council refused to yield to those elected last May, but it also has jailed more than 50 of them. Others have fled. Even the country’s revered Buddhist monks have not escaped the military crackdown. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s so-called “beautification” program to clean up cities was conducted less for aesthetics than to make it hard for anti-government protesters to assemble.

Still the spirit of democracy endures. Other elected officials who managed to escape recently formed a rival government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, with Sein Win, Suu Kyi’s cousin, as prime minister. They are backed by the Democratic Alliance of Burma, an organization of 21 groups fighting the military.


The U.N. Human Rights Commission received a confidential report this week in Geneva on human rights conditions in Myanmar. The international community should insist the report, which reportedly is highly critical, be made public. It would provide the basis for world sanctions against the military regime.