THE CRUELEST dictatorships, like the most ruthless criminal gangs, always have understood that the most effective way to deter opposition is to go after the innocent loved ones of potential enemies

Thus it was not enough for Gen. Than Shwe and his junta in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) to sentence the Buddhist monk U Gambira to prison for 68 years last fall. It was learned last week that his brother, his brother-in-law and four cousins have been sentenced to five years in Burma’s gloomy prisons. We hope that this small piece of data is fed into the review of U.S. policy on Burma that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised.

U Gambira, 28 at the time, was a leader of the nonviolent protests that broke out in Burma in September 2007. Thousands of Burmese followed him and other monks in peaceful protest against one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, despite understanding the possible consequences. U Gambira himself, in an op-ed published in The Post on Nov. 4, 2007 — the day, as it happened, of his arrest after weeks on the run — said that he understood the risks he was taking. “It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey,” he wrote. “Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow.” We can only guess whether he understood that even his uninvolved relatives would be victimized. continue

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