To the Contrary

Please, not normalcy

"Normalcy has now returned in Myanmar," Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week.

What terrible news.

Normalcy in Myanmar under the reprehensible government Nyan Win represents means some of the most repressive conditions in any country today.

Normalcy means that the paranoid generals that run the country once known -- and still known to dissidents --as Burma have violently suppressed the movement for greater democracy. By the government's own statements, more than 2,000 people were arrested. Pro-democracy groups put the number much higher.

Scores have been killed.

Normalcy would be a cruel sign of complete defeat for the protesters who have been driven from the streets. Opposition groups vow that normalcy has not, in fact, returned, although the efforts to sustain protest face grim prospects.

Disputing Nyan Win's U.N. assertion, Susanne Prager Nyein, a visiting academic at the University of North Carolina, told a rally at Duke this week, "that is not true," both because scattered protests continue but also because, even in Myanmar, the suppression and imprisonment of thousands of monks could hardly be deemed normal.

The protest at Duke, and others this week at UNC Chapel Hill, are encouraging signs that students are taking up the cause of Myanmar's oppressed citizens. It is critical that, as censorship and repression remove the images of protesting monks from our television screens, that we keep the plight of Myanmar in stark focus.

President Bush used the forum of his U.N. address last week to call for tougher sanctions against the regime, but it is unclear how much impact they might have on the already isolated country.

Where the U. S. influence might be effective is in pressuring China. ... Our options, and that of the international community, are limited. But it is a moral imperative that the world seek every avenue to lessen the grip of the Myanmar generals.