The international human rights movement can claim an important victory today with the release from a long house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese democracy movement. Coming as it did in the wake of the granting of this year’s Nobel Prize to Chinese imprisoned human rights activist Liu XIaobo it is a sign of the weakening of China’s hold on Asia generally. China has been a big financial supporter of the Burmese military dictatorship and had reacted harshly when Xiaobo was given the Prize.
Many thousands of people around the world took part in the various campaigns to support Suu Kyi’s release.
Here in the US, I helped out in a small way during a legal battle against oil giant Unocal which relied on the Burmese military to dragoon Burmese workers into helping build a natural gas pipeline. The suit led to a successful financial settlement to benefit the Burmese people. The international labor movement pressured the regime through the ILO and the UN system. And so on. This loosely organized but global effort has shown it can face down the most repressive of regimes.
It can only be hoped that the emergence of a democracy movement in Burma can in turn encourage efforts in Vietnam, China and elsewhere in Asia.