by Ray Fleming

Aung San Suu Kyi's personal and party successes in Sunday's partial elections in Burma (Myanmar) have been widely welcomed. But, wisely, she said only, “We hope this will be the beginning of a new era”. Her National League for Democracy won 40 or so of the 664 parliamentary seats, one quarter of which are reserved for military representation. “Amay Suu -- mother Suu” has put Burma back on a long road to the return of a democracy that was abolished by the military almost exactly 50 years ago but its full restoration could take decades.

With typical modesty Aung San Suu Kyi has played down her own election victory and said the important thing is that the democratic process has been restored, if only on a small scale. But her courageous leadership through more than twenty years of house arrest and imprisonment has been exceptional.

Without her refusal to accept that democracy had been lost for ever in Burma its flame might have died; instead, she and her many devoted and brave supporters, kept it burning in difficult and often dangerous circumstances.

Praise is also due to those countries and international organisations which kept the faith with Aung San Suu Kyi despite the hostility of Burma's military regimes and also the irritation of China at what it saw as interference in a sphere of influence where it has major economic interests.

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