Burma's military junta has stepped up its crackdown on pro-democracy activists ahead of 2010 elections. Over the past week the regime has convicted more than 40 people, most of whom were involved in pro-democracy protests in mid-2007. Among them is prominent labor advocate Su Su Nw, who was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years for putting up anti-government posters in the wake of demonstrations. Her co-worker, Bo Bo Win Hlaing, was given an 8-year sentence.
Twenty-three activists were each sentenced to 65 years in prison; 14 of them are leaders and members of the "88 Generation," which led a major uprising 20 years ago that the military also brutally suppressed. A leading blogger and a poet who wrote coded criticism of Burmese military leader Than Shwe [Tha Shwe] were also given prison sentences this month.
In 1990, after a period of martial law, parliamentary elections were held in Burma. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory. But the junta refused to honor the results and jailed opposition activists instead. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, as she has for the majority of the past 19 years.
The United States is steadfast in its call for Burma's leaders to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners. The regime also must begin a genuine and time-bound dialogue with the democracy movement's leaders and ethnic minority leaders on a true transition to democratic government. Improved relations between the two countries depend on the Burmese regime taking credible steps in this direction.