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Burma Needs Democracy

Four months after the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Burma, the military junta is still arresting more dissidents. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, more than ninety-five people have been arrested since November, in spite of calls by the international community for the Burmese regime to stop detaining its political opponents.

The huge demonstrations in August and September were sparked by a sharp rise in fuel prices in Burma. The protests grew as thousands of Buddhist monks joined, calling for human rights and democracy in Burma. The military junta used force to bring a violent end to the protests. According to Amnesty International, at least seven-hundred people were arrested during and after the protests. According to the United Nations, thirty-one people were killed and seventy-four remain missing.

The world has not forgotten the plight of the Burmese people. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers from Britain and France issued a statement calling for democracy and human rights in Burma. "The dramatic pictures seen around the world of the brutality directed against peaceful protestors, including monks and nuns, were truly shocking," said the statement. "We cannot afford to forget. We must convince the Burmese regime to meet the demands of the international community and respect the basic rights of Burma's people."

In October, the U.N. Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement that urged the Burmese regime to cooperation with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's "good offices" mission to Burma and emphasized the importance of the release of all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It also called for Burma's military rulers to address the economic, humanitarian, and human rights concerns of the Burmese people. So far, they have failed to meet any of these demands.

The international community is calling the military junta in Burma to engage in a dialogue with democratic leaders and with the country's ethnic minorities. This is the only means to achieve national reconciliation and stability for Burma and its neighbors. "The people of Burma," said President George W. Bush, "are showing great courage in the face of immense repression. They are appealing for our help. We must not turn a deaf ear to their cries."