As any news report worthy of the name will have told you this morning, the Burmese military junta have imprisoned the democracy campaigner and PEN Honorary Member Aung San Suu Kyi. The reason given in an apparent breach of her house arrest conditions, after an American man swam a lake and visited her. As a correspondent at the Burma Campaign UK HQ just put it to me in an e-mail:
It seems Burma is the only country in the world where you can be sent to jail for someone breaking into your house.
Aung San Suu Kyi was nearing the end of her ‘term’ of house arrest.
How many protesters in the streets does it take to bring an authoritarian government down? … The model comprises two elements: the level of popular support for the opposition (dissidents) and the number of people who can be mobilised for action (activists).
The Burmese situation seems quite positive, since as a religious group the Buddhists can mobilise a great deal of ‘activists’. But unlike the weak governments of Eastern Europe (which Drakakhrust uses as examples), the junta in Burma is much more entrenched. This would presumably alter the equation.
But other factors should tip the balance in the other direction. This BBC quote gives some hope:
Aung Naing Oo, a former student leader in Burma who was involved in the 1988 uprising and who now lives in exile in the UK, believes the junta cannot stop the 2007 protesters. “Nobody knew what was happening in 1988,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio Four.
“There was only very little information about the killings. Now with the internet and the whole world watching I think its a totally different story now…”