Burmese hopes for political change have in recent years been raised and dashed repeatedly as the country’s ruling generals have spurned international efforts to nudge them into a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader.
In May 2002, for example, Ms Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest following a UN-mediated process raised expectations that the generals were finally poised for talks with her about an end to their decades-long monopoly on power.
But just a year later, Ms Suu Kyi was back in detention and, bar a brief appearance this week, has not been seen in public since.
What has become a pattern of disappointment explains why many Burmese have grown so pessimistic about the prospects of meaningful change in their troubled country, and why the conviction has grown among a burgeoning number of Burmese democracy advocates that the blood sacrifice of innocent protesters – through military violence – is an inevitable, and possibly necessary, part of the struggle for change.
“The Burmese have come to believe there is no other way – no shortcut to democracy or freedom – but only through bloodshed,” says Aung Naing Oo, who fled Burma after the suppression of a 1988 mass pro-democracy uprising and is now a Thailand-based analyst.