Billboards around town proclaim the "People's Desires" in Stalinesque prose, such as "Report all stooges to the authorities." A troika runs the country with an iron fist, squeezing life out of the economy, stifling religion and the arts, and crushing any moves toward democracy.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has done her best to expose and oppose the brutality of Myanmar's rulers. Daughter of a national hero, she lives under house arrest in Yangon. Whenever she tries to leave, army vehicles blockade her car, creating incidents that attract the international press.
In Myanmar I met with representatives of a small Christian relief organization that helps victims of AIDS. By their estimate, 50,000 AIDS orphans roam the streets of Myanmar, though the government officially denies any problem. Recently the relief workers had visited Aung San Suu Kyi, a bold act that risked retaliation.
"Why are you helping these children?" asked the woman reverentially called "The Lady" by most Burmese. Aid to the needy helps prop up a corrupt regime, she said. They should let conditions grow so intolerable that citizens would rise up in revolt, or the regime would simply collapse.
The relief organization agreed that her argument has a certain logic. Many South Africans supported international sanctions, which harmed people in the short term, in hopes that ...1