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Burma's military government tighten

Subject: Burma's military government tightens grip on power

Subject: Burma's military government tightens grip on power
Date: Thursday, December 23, 1993       
        BANGKOK (UPI) -- Burma's military government, despite growing
international pressure to restore democracy, is poised to strengthen its
control in 1994 through a new constitution.
        The authoritarian regime, called the State Law and Order Restoration
Council, in September approved the ``basic principles'' of the new
charter, drawn up by a convention of about 700 council-appointed
delegates meeting intermittently since January.
        The principles mandate ``genuine multi-party democracy,'' but they
also call for an executive president chosen not by parliament, but by an
electoral college and the armed forces.
        The new constitution also would allow the military to manage its
affairs independently and permit the armed forces commander to take
power in times of national emergency.
        Foreign residents in Rangoon expect a new government to emerge in
Burma by late 1994 or early 1995, once the constitution is prepared and
adopted. But they say the country would only have the semblance of
democracy -- the military would hold the reins of power.
        The council took power in 1988 and brutally suppressed a pro-
democracy uprising. It also placed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
under house arrest in July 1989.
        Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy swept free elections in May
1990, winning more than 80 percent of the parliamentary seats. However,
the council has refused to relinquish power until a new constitution is
adopted and has detained scores of elected members of Parliament and
monks who protested its continued rule.
        It has so far refused to release Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel laureate,
unless she agrees to renounce politics and live in exile, conditions she
has rejected.
        Brig. Gen. Myo Thant, the minister of information, has said Suu Kyi's
release would be considered again in July 1994, when she will have been
under detention for five years, the maximum period prisoners can be held
under Burmese law.
        A report released in October by the London-based human rights group
Amnesty International said the council was also holding hundreds of
other political opponents in jail under atrocious conditions and
subjecting members of ethnic groups to forced labor, torture, rape and
summary execution.
        ``Burma's security forces continue to commit systematic violations of
human rights with impunity throughout the country,'' the report said. 
``In Burma's towns and cities, anyone thought to be critical of the
SLORC can be arrested, tortured and tried unfairly under laws which
criminalize non-violent political activity.''
        A United Nations resolution on Burma in December also expressed 
``grave concern'' over human rights abuses by the council and said the
regime had made ``no evident progress toward turning over power to a
freely elected civilian government.''
        It also noted the national convention drawing up the new constitution
excluded most of the representatives elected in 1990.
        The United States refused to be a co-sponsor of the U.N. draft, which
it said was too weak and failed to ``fully address the human rights
situation in Burma.''
        The U.S. delegate called for appointment of a special U.N. envoy to 
``focus on resolving conflicts on the basis of national reconciliation
and the restoration of democracy.''
        In a move some observers said was an attempt to influence U.N.
delegates preparing the resolution, the council took a step toward
resolving conflicts that began more than 40 years ago between Rangoon
and armed minority groups.
        The council's intelligence chief, Gen. Khin Nyunt, in November
appealed to ``armed organizations'' to enter negotiations with the
government. Observers noted for the first time a council leader had not
referred to the insurgents as ``terrorists.''
        Officials of the jungle-based Democratic Alliance of Burma, or DAB,
which groups some 18 ethnic insurgent and dissident groups opposed to
the council, responded by offering to send a five-member delegation to
meet government leaders in Rangoon.
        The DAB previously had demanded a cease-fire and the release of all
political prisoners held by the council as pre-conditions for talks.
        However, the council reportedly rejected the DAB offer and was
seeking to meet instead with members of individual groups from the
        One of Burma's ethnic insurgent groups, the Kachin Independence
Organization, which numbers about 6,000, in October agreed to give up
its more than 30-year struggle for autonomy in northern Burma.