Repression in Burma Continues Despite World Attention

Despite the noble intentions of the Nobel Prize committee and the efforts of human rights activists around the world, the repressive regime in Burma continues its stranglehold on that country.

The awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to prominent Burmese dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - who has been under house arrest for more than two years - cast a much-needed spotlight on the continuing human rights abuses in that country.

Suu Kyi was a leader of Burma's 1988 democratic (and nonviolent) uprising--in which thousands of dissidents were killed--and of the National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in the May 1990 parliamentary elections. But the parliament was never convened, as the military rulers refused to relinquish the power they had assumed in a September 1988 coup. Instead, the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) detained almost all democratic leaders--including Suu Kyi--and hundreds of Buddhist monks.

Human rights observers and Burmese dissidents now say there is little likelihood that the ruling junta will soon soften its brutal campaign to crush all opposition and hopes for democracy in the Southeast Asian country. "Only when the junta is convinced it is the biggest obstacle to Burmese progress will it rethink its policies," said one exiled leader of the democratic movement recently.

To bolster Burma's deteriorating economy and build up its armed forces, after crushing the pro-democracy movement in 1988 the ruling SLORC began opening the country's borders to foreign investment and trade. For instance, logging companies based in Thailand are now clear-cutting much of Burma's natural teak forest, displacing peasants and monks and causing irreparable harm to wildlife and the environment.

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Sojourners Magazine January 1992
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