Burma's military government accuses the United States of picking on it. At issue: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's statement at a conference of Asian nations that the Burmese generals were blocking the freedom of movement of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Moreover, Ms. Albright added, the junta's repression threatens stability in the region.
These comments from America's top diplomat are more than an insult. They're the unvarnished truth. The dictatorial clique in Rangoon has had Ms. Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the past eight years, ever since her National League for Democracy (NLD) swept national elections in 1990 - a result voided by the military.
Suu Kyi and her followers have, however, been irrepressible, attempting to stage rallies and keep their organization alive. The NLD last month called on the government to reopen parliament. In response, the generals slapped new restrictions on the democracy movement, banning travel by NLD members in the country's provinces. Suu Kyi chose to defy those orders, and when her car was stopped at a roadblock, she decided to stay put as a protest.
Such protests are rightly amplified by all governments that stand for democratic values. Burma's regime - euphemistically named the State Peace and Development Council - is among the world's worst. And its abuses extend beyond restrictions on Suu Kyi and her movement. Organizations like Amnesty International have documented horrific crimes by Burmese troops, including forcing women from the country's ethnic minorities to work as porters, then repeatedly subjecting them to rape.
This government deserves all the criticism it is getting, as well as all the economic pressures that can be mustered to force peaceable change. A brutal dictatorship is inherently unstable and dangerous to its neighbors. Albright simply spoke the truth.