Twenty years to this day, Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections held in Burma. For a brief moment in the history of the country, it rekindled a national belief and hope in the possibility of genuine democracy and freedom. It was a sign that out of the ruins of one of the world’s worst tyrannies – a tragic legacy by Ne Win, a democracy was struggling to be born. Within a matter of days, the spark of hope the elections ignited was snuffed out by the military regime led by Than Shwe. The military regime refused to transfer power, and arrested and imprisoned hundreds of elected leaders and activists across the country. To this day, over 400 members of the now defunct NLD remain behind bars, serving long prison sentences on trumped up charges. Aung San Suu Kyi has also been locked up for over 14 of the last 20 years.
On its 20th anniversary of the 1990 victory for the democratic forces inside Burma, a small celebration was held in the home of veteran NLD leader U Tin Oo. The event was attended by over 150 students and party members, making it the biggest gathering of party members since its dissolution in early May before the regime’s deadline for party registration in the upcoming sham elections. Those who came listened to speeches by NLD Chairman and former political prisoner Tin Oo, and other party leaders, including Win Tin and May Win Myint, who was elected in the 1990 elections.
On March 11, 2010, the military regime officially annulled the results of the 1990 elections. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The 1990 elections sent a clear message to the Burmese military that the people wanted them out of power.” Repealing the 1990 results forcibly sent a loud and clear message to the world that the Burmese military junta is completely not interested in considering or representing the will of the people of Burma, and there is no reason to think that after 2010, the junta will think differently.
In a joint statement released today, a bipartisan group of US Senators honored the 20th anniversary of the 1990 polls by reaffirming their commitment to the democracy movement in Burma and calling for tighter and targeted sanctions against the Burmese generals and their associates. The statement reads, “On the twentieth anniversary of this election, we reaffirm our conviction that the people of Burma deserve the freedom to choose their future for themselves. We condemn the continuing dictatorship imposed by the junta and call on its ruling generals to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and to begin a genuine political dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups and leaders, including with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Many rights groups around the world also slammed the upcoming sham elections in 2010 carried out by the regime to legitimize itself. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated that, “Only the most cynical of governments could endorse Burma’s deeply flawed process.” \