September 25, The Atlantic
A former prisoner of conscience, now the chairman of one of Burma's major opposition parties, on why minority rights are now such a central issue in the country.
In a country whose very name is a subject of contention -- Burma or Myanmar? -- I confess that I'm not sure about whether we're actually witnessing democracy sprout up or not. I'm almost 70 years old; I've grown up and spent my life under military rule; and because of that, I've never experienced what it means to have basic democratic rights like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the freedom to vote (under conditions of fair and honest competition), or the freedom of choice generally in many areas of life that people in democratic states take for granted. If one free vote is held -- and only in some by-elections at that -- does that amount to proof that these rights are secure and active?