27 November 2010

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball: Burma

Harn Lay (2010). Photograph © Platon, for Human Rights Watch.

It has been roughly a week since the military junta in Burma released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. At the time I noted here that while this was a welcome turn of events, it represented a quite minimal step by the authorities. There are many prisoners being held and many others who have been driven into exile. Cartoonist Harn Lay is among the latter group. He has been in exile in Thailand since 1988. Human Rights Watch has commissioned photographer Platon to portray some of the many others who have born (and continue to bear) the brunt of military rule in Burma. You can find the results of his work on this project here.

The upshot? It is important that we outside of Burma continue to speak out against the junta and its authoritarian policies. And it is more important still to devise policies that might bring pressure to bear on the junta. Many observers think that is impossible given their intransigence. For example, here are remarks (part 1, part 2) made by Amartya Sen at this conference coordinated by Human Rights Watch last month. What is called for is not just moralizing, but concerted political action.

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