A little over three years after Fidel Castro and his cohorts took power in Cuba during the same year as the 1962 Cuban missile crisis the military junta came to power in Burma and would go on to change the name to Myanmar and like Cuba destroy their citizen's freedoms and in the process their country through the systematic violation of fundamental human rights. Unlike Cuba, the dictatorship in Burma was foolish enough to believe that they could win free and relatively fair elections. Human Rights Watch offers a brief summary of what took place:
On May 27, 1990, surprisingly free and fair elections in Burma resulted in a resounding win for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which secured 60 percent of the popular vote and 80 percent of the parliamentary seats (392 out of 485). The NLD will not contest the 2010 elections because of new laws aimed to deter the opposition from running and the imprisonment of many party members, including NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Unfortunately, having learned this lesson they will not dare repeat it. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent the last 20 years under house arrest with brief internments in prison. In 1991 she won the Nobel Peace Prize, but was unable to attend the ceremony being under arrest in Burma. Meanwhile the country has been subjected to brutal oppression with a huge number of political prisoners estimated today at 2,100 with 428 of them members of the victorious NLD party arrested in 1990 and thousands of victims of torture and extrajudicial killings. Despite all of this the opposition carries on and is observing the anniversary of the last free elections in Burma. They are holding activities in Burma and around the world. Despite all these horrors Aung San Suu Kyi remains firmly committed to nonviolent resistance to tyranny. Listen to her in this video:
Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." I would learn the truth of this thanks to Aung San Suu Kyi and former Cuban prisoner of conscience José Gabriel Ramón Castillo. Attending the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy in 2009 I met José Gabriel there and after listening to Soe Aung, from the National Council of the Union of Burma speak about the situation in his country. José Gabriel turned to me and explained how reading a book by Aung San Suu Kyi in Cuba had led him to decide to become a political dissident and join the ranks of the Cuban opposition to the dictatorship. Years later he would be part of a group of former political prisoners demanding her release. This led me to reflect on another Kingian observation that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and realize that it needed a corollary "Striving for justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere."
This is a small contribution to this effort in solidarity with a Free Burma and with the Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi. My prayers and best wishes for her and the people of Burma.
Thwa dau me