"If we don't talk to you maybe we are cowards. I was downtown where the monks were shot just outside our Sule Pagoda. I was marching, too. In some ways it was the best day of my life. They can't take that away from me. From now on I speak the fire in my heart!"
By the time I returned home in November 2007, Burma had faded fast from the news.
Then, tragically, cyclone Nargis hit this past May and again the troubled nation held the world's attention. Yet despite repeat visits by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambiri, negotiations with the junta's generals have been a dismal failure.
Today, the sentencing in Burma reads like ticker tape: 65 years, 45 years, 20 years, 2.5 years, 12 years, 14 years, extending its reach beyond the "Generation 88" student activists (leaders of the 1988 protests against the junta that resulted in thousands of deaths) to include comedians, poets, bloggers, even a rap star.
It is my belief that the Burmese with "fire" in their hearts will continue to speak out and plan further protests despite the terrible price it is exacting. Yet the success of their sacrifices seems tragically compromised as long as there are countries that support the junta's oppressive regime by selling it weapons. That's why these three actions must be taken:
•First, the US Senate must immediately confirm Michael Green to fill the newly created position of Special Envoy to Burma. Having a regional specialist installed in a dedicated post will bring focus to what has been a largely uncoordinated effort by advocacy, human rights, and UN groups.