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Ban Ki-moon Fails To Move Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement and a believer in non-violent resistance, is probably the world's most prominent political captive. She is probably also very brave and determined. She has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest living in her own house with two maids. This means that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi--there apparently is no other way of rendering her name--has not been condemned to a gulag. I guess that aristocracy still has authority in some dictatorships. And, as Neil MacFarquhar points out in today's New York Times, some dictatorships cam claim some real accomplishments to their credits. Well, fascism made the trains run on time. And some people say that Castro improved medical care

Still, there's no question about the tyranny that keeps Burma stitched together despite the popularity of Mrs. Aung (that's what I'll call her for short) and her movement. She may not even be in the eyes of the generals their most dangerous enemies. But the fact is that the regime is a tyranny and the lady is its victim.

So much its victim that the United Nations has proclaimed her one of its prime causes. This has not been especially good for Mrs. Aung. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, visited Rangoon (now called Yangon) over the weekend and, as MacFarquhar points out, "despite the weight of his personal intervention, failed to secure so much as a chat with Asia's most famous political prisoner, much less any concessions."

Let's face it: the U.N. has very little clout with a regime that has the support of Russia and China, two of the five permanent and veto- holding members of the Security Council. Mr. Ban somehow thinks that stopping his organization's focus on "the country's star dissident" will permit the U.N. to address elections, reconciliation, economic matters (including the residue of the 2008 cyclone) instead. As it happens, the Obama administration is also inclined to change lanes along with the U.N., a task made more difficult by a new trial for the long-time hero.

The regime does not seem prone to any inducements. After all, it is an enormous country, the largest in Indo-China, and has friends in high places. The U.N. flopped here for years and years. And, alas, so will the U.S.