In yesterday’s Independent, U Win Tin made a passionate appeal to the West to use their freedom to help his country achieve the same.
In a hand-written letter smuggled out of Burma and passed to the paper he wrote "I want to repeat and echo her own (Aung San Suu Kyi) words – 'please use your liberty to promote ours'. I want to add more to it. Please bring more and more liberty to us, to our country, Burma. We are starving for it and we are waiting for someone or some institutions or some countries to bring it to us."
The plea from Ms Suu Kyi's friend and senior political ally, who himself spent almost 20 years in solitary confinement, comes at a desperately difficult time for the opponents of Burma's military junta. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been forced to shut down after it decided it could not participate in an election due later this year when she and more than 2,000 political prisoners remain behind bars. Ae a breakaway group of supporters has decided to contest the polls, most independent analysts believe the election will simply further cement the junta's position.
The junta has claimed the elections due to be held this year will mark a crucial staging point in Burma's journey to full democracy. It is a claim that has been met with derision by most independent observers.
Just yesterday, The Elders, a group of global leaders called together by Nelson Mandela, used the occasion of Ms Suu Kyi's birthday to denounce the planned election. "National processes in Burma have been usurped by the military government – they do not serve the people. The elections due later this year will not be any different," said Desmond Tutu, chairman of the group.
Despite the junta's efforts to isolate her, experts say Ms Suu Kyi remains the sole person who could perhaps unite Burma. "She remains a powerful icon and, if she were free and there were free presidential elections tomorrow, there's no doubt in my mind that she would win," said author Bertil Lintner.
Even at the age of 65, the woman inside carries with her a rare, special power that the generals still fear. Here’s hoping it won’t be for long and the junta lie in unmarked graves, despised forever.