“Freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up.”-Aung San Suu Kyi

“Burma has a long and tortured history,” wrote Sherry O’Keefe in Champion of Freedom: Aung San Suu Kyi.

Much has changed in Burma (also known as Myanmar) over the course of the last century. It has been ruled by the British, then the Japanese, then it was taken over by General Ne Win and his military regime in 1962. All the while, the people of Burma have fought tooth and nail for democracy, and they have suffered for their efforts.

After the National League for Democracy (the NLD) was registered in Burma in 1988, the ruling military party, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (or the SLORC), attempted to censor and squash much of what the NLD was doing in order to maintain their control of the country. Censorship was not the worst of the NLD’s treatment, though. O’Keefe wrote:

They [the SLORC] apprehended the most loyal and able NLD supporters, usually students, and either imprisoned them or forced them to serve in ongoing wars against insurgent forces. While waiting to be shipped off to battlefronts, many students were subject to cruel forms of punishment, such as being stripped naked and herded around like animals. Others were brought to mine fields and forced to walk across them as human minesweepers.

But things have started to change for the small repressed country. Reuters reported, “While little has changed physically on Myanmar’s rutted streets, the government has seen a dramatic transformation the past six months. Last August, President Thein Sein, a former junta leader, stunned lawmakers in the capital Naypyitaw, urging them to pursue reforms, adopt good governance and do the unthinkable: freely voice opinions. Since then, hundreds of political prisoners have been freed.”

This past weekend, Burma and the rest of the world witnessed what seems to be democracy gaining another inch. Aung San Suu Kyi, beloved freedom-fighter and leader of the National League for Democracy, was, for the first time, allowed to openly move around the country campaigning for her party and its mission. Elections to Parliament are set to take place on April 1 of this year.

A year ago, that would have been “unthinkable,” the Associated Press reported. “The mere fact that Suu Kyi was able to speak openly in public… and her supporters were able to greet her en masse without fear of reprisal– was proof of dramatic progress itself.”

Suu Kyi told the burgeoning crowd of her supporters, “We will bring democracy to the country. We will bring rule of law . . . and we will see to it that repressive laws are repealed.”

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about Aung San Suu Kyi and the history of Burma, check out Champion of Freedom: Aung San Suu Kyi by Sherry O’Keefe, a Morgan Reynolds title. (ISBN 9781599351681)

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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