o the Burmese government has finally set a date for the next national election. That’s good news. At least we know that there’s definitely going to be a vote. The government’s dithering had raised fears that it might be angling for a postponement. Yet Burma’s tribulations are far from over. The country’s nascent democracy is in deep trouble. The country’s nascent democracy is in deep trouble. And you don’t have to rely on me as the source. Just ask the Burmese. Recently I had the privilege to meet up here in Washington with Wai Wai Nu, a 27-year-old Burmese political activist. She had come to speak with U.S. government officials and human rights organizations, but ended up getting a bit more than she’d bargained for. On June 23, President Barack Obama invited her (and a diverse bunch of American Muslims) to the White House for iftar, the evening meal that marks the daily breaking of the Ramadan fast. Wai Wai Nu is a Rohingya, the Muslim minority that has been the object of considerable violence and discrimination in Burma in recent years.
It was a thrilling experience for her. She even got to sit at the president’s table, one chair away from him, and she was so excited, she told me, that she actually forgot to eat. “Oh my god, it was so special,” she said, laughing incredulously. “There I was, from the most persecuted group in Burma, meeting a man from a persecuted group who’s now the most powerful person in the world.”
The feeling was especially poignant for a young woman who spent seven years in prison — not for anything she did, but solely because of who she is.
In 2005, her father, an activist and ex-member of parliament, publicly criticized the harsh military junta that was ruling the country. He also openly sided with opposition leader and Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then still under house arrest. In retaliation, the regime decided to jail not only him but also the rest of his family (Wai Wai Nu and her mother, sister, and brother). They were released in 2012 as part of an amnesty for political prisoners ordered by the reformist government of President Thein Sein, who has said that he wants to move the country away from its old authoritarian ways.
Full Article: Burma’s Moment of Truth | Foreign Policy.