Pro-democracy activists in Burma say they collected more than five-hundred-thousand signatures on petitions demanding the release of all political prisoners. The campaign was undertaken by the "Eighty-eight Generation Students," a group formed by Burmese students who participated in the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations that were crushed by the military junta, which has repressively ruled the country ever since.
According to a statement released by the group, copies of the petitions are being sent to the junta and to the United Nations. In September, the U-N Security Council added Burma to its agenda. Mya Aye, a leader of the "Eighty-eight Generation Students," said that the primary reasons why large numbers of people signed the petition "are economic and social dire straits, and that they are starting to have the pragmatic and strong belief that under the current system there would be no security for them."
The junta's more vicious policies include attacks against ethnic minorities, including the Shan and Karen minority groups. Its actions are resulting in hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and refugees, thousands of child soldiers, large-scale narcotics and human trafficking, and the unimpeded spread of communicable diseases, such as H-I-V/AIDS.
In 1990, the last time parliamentary elections were held in Burma, the National League for Democracy, or N-L-D, won a decisive victory. But the military regime refused to accept the results and cracked down on the democracy movement. Today, more than one-thousand Burmese are in prison for promoting democracy. They include Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary of the N-L-D and winner of the 1991 Nobel peace prize. She has been under house arrest for eleven of the past seventeen years, and remains the only Nobel Laureate imprisoned.
Other high-profile political prisoners in Burma include N-L-D vice-chairman U Tin Oo and Hkun Htun Oo, leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. In a written statement, Tom Casey, the U.S. State Department's deputy spokesman, says the United States condemns the continued detention of pro-democracy activists in Burma and calls "for the initiation of a genuine process of national reconciliation."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.