Opinion Columns & Blogs

In Myanmar, promise and peril

A wave of discontent swept Myanmar on Aug. 8, 1988, a protest that came to be called the "four eights uprising." Demonstrations in the weeks that followed saw the rise of Aung San Suu Kyias an influential and popular figure.

When elections were held in 1990, her National League for Democracy (NLD) won 80 percent of the parliamentary seats, but the outcome was ignored by military rulers, who isolated her under house arrest. For a quarter-century, the generals kept freedom and prosperity at bay as much of Southeast Asia moved forward. Burma's story seemed to be one of hopes dashed, of retreat and retrenchment.

But it turns out that a large swath of Myanmar's 51 million people have not given up on the promise of 1988. A reform process that the generals initiated a few years ago, which included freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, proceeded to national parliamentary elections on Sunday. And 25 years after Myanmar's last free vote, early returns show that the NLD again has won a landslide victory.

It may come close to enough seats in parliament to rule outright, without a coalition, even though the generals stacked the deck with a constitution that reserves one-quarter of parliament's seats for them.

The coming months will test patience still more. Myanmar, previously known as Burma, has not rid itself of the army's heavy-handed influence.

(U.S.) Trade preferences and improved military relations should await confirmation that, this time, the people's wishes will not be thwarted.

This is an excerpt from The Washington Post.

Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyias, National League for Democracy, house arrest,