Aung San Suu Kyi

The World’s Top Dissidents

A small sample of the thousands of brave men and women leading the global fight for freedom and democracy.


Aung San Suu Kyi in 1999.


Aung San Suu Kyi: Few global dissidents are as well known as Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient whose long and storied career as a democratic activist in Burma has inspired thousands to support her in solidarity. After participating in a massive street protest of students against the dictatorship on Aug. 8, 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi went on to found Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won the 1990 general election with 82 percent of the vote. Before Aung San Suu Kyi could assume the premiership, however, the Burmese junta nullified the election results and placed her under house arrest, where she has more or less been ever since. Recently, Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior NLD leaders decided to boycott the first round of Burma’s general election — the first to be held in decades — citing an unjust electoral process.

3 Responses to “Aung San Suu Kyi”
  1. Manoel Giffoni disse:

    Em complemento ao Burma VJ!

  2. Manoel Giffoni disse:

    Barack Obama’s policy of “pragmatic engagement” with the Burmese military junta is in danger of falling apart as the generals press ahead with plans for elections later this year from which the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, has been effectively excluded. Pressure is now growing for a tougher approach – though it’s unclear what, if anything, can make the regime change its mind.

    Speaking on Monday following a visit to Burma, Kurt Campbell, US assistant secretary of state, expressed Washington’s “profound disappointment” at the lack of progress there. The junta had ignored proposals for a national dialogue involving all political and ethnic groups and was instead moving ahead unilaterally with its poll plans, he said.

    “As a direct result, what we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy. We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections,” Campbell said. A date has not yet been announced for the polls.

    Campbell was sharply critical of the junta’s treatment of an estimated 2,100 political prisoners and its continuing human rights abuses, including army attacks on ethnic minority groups. In March a report by UN special rapporteur on human rights said the “systematic” attacks could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and called for a judicial investigation.

    Washington’s primary concern may not be human rights at all, but the junta’s suspected arms trade with North Korea and reports that the two countries may be co-operating on nuclear weapons-related projects. After North Korea conducted a nuclear test last year, the UN security council passed resolution 1874 banning all forms of weapons trading with Pyongyang.

    Campbell hinted at unspecified, unilateral US action if the regime did not co-operate. “We have urged Burma’s senior leadership to abide by its own commitment to fully comply with 1874. Recent developments call into question that commitment … The United States retains the right to take independent action within the frameworks established by the international community.”

    Criticism of the generals’ election plans, and the continued detention of the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi (who met briefly with Campbell), has also been voiced by Britain, which backs a war crimes inquiry, the EU, and members of Asean (the association of south-east Asian nations). Last month EU foreign ministers renewed sanctions on the regime, predicted the elections would not be credible, and demanded an end to violations of human rights and international law.

    But the criticism has been ignored by the junta, which continues to enjoy diplomatic contacts and unimpeded trade with some neighbouring countries, notably China – a big customer for its timber and other natural resources. State media reported this week that an election commission official, Thein Soe, told Campbell international election observers would not be allowed into the country. “The nation has a lot of experience with elections. We do not need election watchdogs to come here,” he said.

    In a further sign of fraying American patience, a bipartisan coalition in the US House of Representatives called this week for a “tougher and more robust application of sanctions on Burma” and urged the Obama administration to back an international war crimes inquiry. Democrat congressman Joe Crowley, a member of the House foreign affairs committee, said swift action was required: “This is a regime that has destroyed or forced the abandonment of 3,500 villages, raped countless ethnic-minority women and recruited thousands of child soldiers … It is my hope the administration will support the UN findings, both by acknowledging the Burmese regime is committing crimes against humanity and by seeking a strong international investigation.”

    The de facto banning and forced dissolution of the NLD, which won Burma’s last free vote in 1990, has split the opposition – as the generals doubtless intended. A breakaway NLD faction, the National Democratic Force, has said it will contest the elections. Another four of the existing 10 parties have also applied for permission to run. One of them, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, has been promoted on state-controlled television, raising suspicions that is has been co-opted by the junta.

    Htet Aung of Irrawaddy magazine, writing in Asia Sentinel, suggested the NLD had made a “strategic error” in refusing to comply with new electoral rules, arguing that it could have forced change from within the new approved parliamentary structure. But analyst Frida Ghitis, writing in World Politics Review, said the junta had set a trap for NLD. Its decision to pull out marked “another defeat” for Obama’s policy of engaging with rogue regimes, she said.

    Mark Farmaner of the lobbying group, Burma Campaign UK, said US policy was not working but insisted that effective action to influence the junta’s behaviour for the better was still possible. “The US will not give up yet but clearly after two visits [by Campbell] since last September, engagement with the regime has produced no results at all,” Farmaner said. The US should drop its bilateral approach and join forces with other interested parties – the UN, the EU, and Asean – in agreeing more targeted sanctions focused on the small political and business elites that control Burma, he said.

    The international community was making a mistake in trying to adapt or modify the generals’ so-called “road map” to democracy, instead of saying clearly what it thought should happen, Farmaner said. The best basis for progress remained an inclusive tripartite dialogue between the opposition, Burma’s ethnic groups and the junta – an approach the UN and others had previously supported.

    “The European Union could do much more, so could the US,” Farmaner said. But with Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah, forceful champions of Burmese democracy, out of office, the question, as always in Burma, is whether anyone among the western governments cares enough to try.

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