Suu Kyi's Leap Of Faith
AUNG San Suu Kyi’s long resistance to Myanmar’s brutal dictatorship gave her people hope that her country would someday be free. Her swearing in this week as a member of Myanmar’s Parliament is an important step forward, but the struggle to establish a real democracy is not over.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy won a landslide parliamentary election in 1990, but the generals who have ruled since 1962 refused to let her party take power. She spent most of the next two decades in jail or under house arrest. When she was told she could leave the country to join her husband and sons in England, she courageously refused.
The international community marshaled sanctions, and over the last year the military finally loosened its stranglehold.
Suu Kyi, who has never given in to bitterness, has urged the US and others to encourage more change by lessening Myanmar’s isolation. Last month, she and others in her party won 42 seats in the 500-member Parliament, but the military still controls nearly all of the government.
The positive momentum suddenly seemed at risk when Suu Kyi refused to take the oath of office, demanding changes to the pledge to “safeguard” the undemocratic Constitution.
On Monday, she dropped her objection.
From Parliament she will have a better chance to press for reforms and address the fate of hundreds of political prisoners.
The Obama administration has appointed an ambassador to Myanmar and invited government officials to visit Washington, and is working to ease some economic sanctions.
The European Union has suspended most of its sanctions for a year. But Washington and its allies must move cautiously, keeping an arms embargo in place and standing ready to reimpose sanctions if the generals backslide.