David Longstreath/AP
A Myanmar Democracy supporter with a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration
outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, China, in 1998.

Myanmar Opposition Cautiously Organizes as China Defends Junta

July 16, 2009 05:30 PM
by Liz Colville
As the National League of Democracy's leader Aung San Suu Kyi stands trial, her party, in opposition to Myanmar's military government, continues to fight ahead of elections slated for 2010.

National League of Democracy Looks Ahead to 2010

A BBC correspondent spent a week waiting to meet with a member of Myanmar's National League of Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently standing trial and has been in prison or under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

Protected by anonymity, the NLD member, who leads the party's youth branch, met with the BBC at a secret location in Myanmar.

When asked why the trial of Suu Kyi, who is being charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, has been delayed so many times, the NLD activist told the BBC, "They cannot let her be free before the elections."

The elections, slated for 2010, would be the first since 1990, explains the BBC. That year, the NLD, under Suu Kyi, "won a landslide victory but the army refused to let them take power." The country has been ruled by a military junta since 1962.

Protests are a risky endeavor in Myanmar, and are often faced with a "violent crackdown," as in 1988, the year Suu Kyi was first imprisoned, and 2007, when citizens protested a steep rise in fuel prices, the BBC reports.
"The protests spread from monks to students," according to the BBC, "and became an uprising—the most significant challenge to Burma's generals in almost two decades. But again there was a crackdown. At least 10 people were confirmed dead in the military's response to the protests" and thousands were reportedly arrested.

According to the BBC, those in the Myanmar military "live a separate life from the people." The NLD member says that the real hope for the country is for the "army's low ranks" to join with ordinary citizens in solidarity.

But Myanmar may need outside help. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently intervened with a request that Myanmar's government grant amnesty to the country's prisoners to allow them to take part in next year's elections, Reuters reported July 13.

The government "is planning" to do so, but Ban told reporters, "This is encouraging, but I will have to continue to follow up how they will implement all the issues raised during my visit in Myanmar."

Meanwhile, China has come out in defense of the country's junta, reports Evelyn Leopold in The Huffington Post. At a U.N. Security Council session on Myanmar, China's deputy U.N. ambassador, Lui Zhenmin, said, "It would be unfair to turn a blind eye to the progress Myanmar has made and instead always focus on picking at its government." China is a "major trading partner" with Myanmar and the statement suggested that China "would not use its influence to bring about any major change in the isolated southeast Asian nation," Leopold writes.

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