Stanley Weiss ("A first step toward democracy?" Views, Feb. 23) demonstrates the triumph of cynicism over principle in discussing Burma's planned elections.
If Burma's ruling generals stage elections in 2010 "without violence or repression," it will be a step forward, Mr. Weiss argues. He has an odd definition of repression, which apparently does not include an election "stage-managed by the military."
If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy "chooses not to participate," it will surely be because the N.L.D., which won Burma's last elections in 1990 but has suffered repression since, determines the election will be rigged. To pretend that violence will not be part of the process is disingenuous, since its threat by an army with a very bloody record is something all Burmese have to consider before joining an opposition party or taking to the streets.
Here's the reality: Peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007 were crushed with extreme violence. The 2008 constitutional referendum was rigged. More than 2,100 political prisoners languish in horrific prisons. The junta has refused to engage in serious dialogue with the opposition. And without concerted international pressure, particularly from China, there will be no meaningful change.
Mr. Weiss argues that bogus elections and an end to sanctions will lead to a new Burma. But why a regime wallowing in cash from selling the country's natural resources - while most Burmese live in poverty - would relax its grip if sanctions ended is a mystery. Instead, the United States, the European Union, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should finally implement serious targeted financial sanctions. And the United Nations should tell the generals that if they don't reform quickly it will authorize an inquiry into decades of massive human rights abuses by the military.
International justice should be on the international agenda. That would get the generals' attention.
Brad Adams, London Asia director, Human Rights Watch