Burma's Democrats

Burma's military government released Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest last July. But it's as determined as ever to keep what she represents firmly locked up.

Soldiers of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) arrested more than 250 Burmese democrats who planned to participate in a three-day conference called by Ms. Suu Kyi. The gathering took place anyway, its May 26 starting date coinciding with the anniversary of the 1990 election that gave Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), an overwhelming victory.

SLORC's generals nullified the 1990 vote and have tried since to act as if it never happened. They have labeled any note of dissent an attack on "stability." But Burma's democracy movement won't be silenced. Its leader is right when she notes that SLORC's latest repression is further evidence of its insecurity. The NLD conference ended with an announcement by Suu Kyi that her party would draft a democratically based constitution in contrast to the document being put together by the regime.

The world should closely watch how the generals respond to this latest affront to their authority. Their quest for normalized economic relations should be rebuffed until they show, at the least, a willingness to engage in genuine dialogue with Suu Kyi and her followers.

Meanwhile, the readiness of many Burmese to gather in the name of democracy, even when arrests and torture are threatened, has its own unmistakable eloquence.

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