Thursday, January 5, 2012

Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi Hopeful

I'm not looking forward to America's presidential election in November of this year. I don't like the verbal fewmets flung by candidates and their supporters. Then there's the juridical slapstick that generally follows, as some judge compares lawsuits and decides who should have won the election.

But this isn't a political blog, and - it could be worse.

Take Burma, for example. Or Myanmar, or Myanma. The last I checked, the country's bosses still prefer the 'Myanmar' moniker:
"Suu Kyi: Burma democracy in my lifetime"
Asia, BBC News (January 5, 2011)

"Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she believes Burma will hold democratic elections 'in my lifetime'.

"In an exclusive interview with the BBC, she said she did not know when that would be or whether she would run.

"She said political prisoners must be freed. Officials deny their existence...."
About those political prisoners who don't exist: it's a matter of semantics, rather than the folks being 'non-persons who never existed.' I'll get back to that.
"...She [Suu Kyi] is due to meet William Hague - the first UK foreign secretary to visit since 1955. Several top officials have visited since Burma's first elections in 20 years that ended military rule.

"A nominally civilian government is now in place.

"Ms Suu Kyi, 66, told BBC World News that she foresaw 'a full democratic elections in my lifetime', adding: 'But then of course I don't know how long I'm going to live. But if I live a normal lifespan, yes.'..."
It's nice to see someone expressing hope: particularly in a situation like Aung San Suu Kyi's. I think her hope is somewhat reasonable: particularly considering that she's allowed to have visitors.

Political Prisoners, Common Criminals, and All That

Burma doesn't have "political prisoners." Not according to Burma's bosses. Burma has, however, imprisoned quite a few "criminals" who just happen to have disagreed with Burma's leaders:
"...William Hague said after meeting his counterpart Wunna Maung Lwi in Nay Pyi Taw that 'the foreign minister has reaffirmed commitments that have been made to release political prisoners'.

" 'He said the changes are irreversible and I welcome that way of thinking,' Mr Hague added.

"But in an interview with the BBC Burmese service later, Wunna Maung Lwi said Burma did not acknowledge there were political prisoners.

"They are all criminals, he said, and it was up to the president to decide when prisoners were released - adding that prisoners had already been freed on three recent occasions.

"The government, he said, was focused on the development of the whole country.

"Between 600 and 1,000 journalists, dissidents and monks who led anti-government protests in 2007 are thought to remain behind bars in Burma...."
I think the impulse to define dissent as a criminal act is fairly common. Whether or not an authority who says opponents are criminals is sincere, the effect is the same: debate is stifled; bad policies remain in effect; and peaceful, orderly change becomes more difficult.

"It can't happen here?" I'm not so sure:And that's another topic.

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