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Head of MI to meet with Aung San Su

Subject: Head of MI to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi

<TDAT> NYT-07-11-94 2106EDT
  c.1994 N.Y. Times News Service
     YANGON, Myanmar  The head of Burmese military intelligence said
  on Monday that he would accept an invitation to meet with Daw Aung
  San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned opposition leader and Nobel laureate,
  in a demonstration of his government's willingness to ``work hand
  in hand with politicians who have opposed us in the past.''
     The intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, is often described
  as the most powerful man in the military government of Myanmar, and
  a meeting with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi would be at least a symbolic
  step toward political reform in the country formerly known as
     Khin Nyunt did not set a date for the meeting and suggested that
  the timing could be decided only after further deliberations within
  the junta.
     ``The meeting will take place at an appropriate time,'' he said
  in an interview in which he was notably conciliatory toward the
  democracy leader, a woman he has described in the past as a dupe of
  Burmese Communists.
     ``Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not an enemy,'' he said. ``In fact,
  she is the daughter of one of our generals. She is younger than me,
  and I think of her like a younger sister.''
     Noting that the junta had recently signed peace settlements with
  several rebel groups based among the country's ethnic minorities,
  he added: ``We are willing to work hand in hand with the
  politicians who have opposed us in the past.''
     Khin Nyunt said it was too early to discuss an agenda for the
  meeting with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who, on July 20, will enter her
  sixth year under house arrest in her family's lakeside compound in
  Yangon, formerly Rangoon. ``There is no advanced preparation,'' he
  said. Diplomats and other Burmese officials said the meeting would
  almost certainly not take place until after a national
  constitutional convention reconvened in September.
     ``They probably want more of the constitutional issues settled
  before they add Aung San Suu Kyi to the debate,'' a Western
  diplomat said. ``Khin Nyunt's neck is on the line over this
  meeting, and I'm sure he wants the agreement of most of his
  colleagues before he actually gets into a room with her. That will
  take time. Whenever it happens, the meeting will be significant.''
     In February, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi was permitted to meet a
  delegation led by an American congressman, her first non-family
  foreign visitors since 1989. She told her visitors that she was
  prepared to meet at any time with Khin Nyunt and other junta
  leaders. She said all topics were open for negotiation except one:
  she said she would refuse to leave Myanmar.
     The invitation for direct talks was made by the visiting
  lawmaker, Rep. Bill Richardson, a New Mexico Democrat, who has
  offered to mediate between Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.
     Khin Nyunt did not respond at first to the invitation for talks,
  describing Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's attitude toward the military as
  ``negative and counterproductive.'' He said a decision would have
  to be made by the full junta, which calls itself the State Law and
  Order Restoration Council.
     But in the 90-minute interview on Monday in the Defense Ministry
  headquarters in Yangon, the 53-year-old intelligence chief
  disclosed that a decision had been made, and that he would meet
  with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. Her freedom has become a central
  condition for Myanmar in its bid to restore full diplomatic
  relations and trade with the United States and other Western
     ``We would like to have very good relations with the United
  States,'' the general said, expressing frustration over the Clinton
  administration's efforts to isolate Myanmar over its human rights
  record. ``If the United States had a clear and objective view of
  what we are doing, it would facilitate our job.''
     In a phone interview from Massachusetts, Richardson said he was
  ``delighted with Khin Nyunt's decision'' to meet with Mrs. Aung San
  Suu Kyi, adding: ``Hopefully, these will become concrete talks and
  not merely p.r. photo opportunities.''
     Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 49, the Oxford-educated daughter of the
  Burmese independence hero, Aung San, was placed under house arrest
  in 1989 as part of a violent military crackdown on the nascent
  democracy movement. Despite her detention, her political party, the
  National League for Democracy, went on to a landslide victory in
  general elections in 1990 -- a result that the military refused to
     The next year, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Although
  Khin Nyunt speaks English, he answered questions on Monday in
  Burmese, except when asked about Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's health.
     ``She is very well,'' he said in English, noting that her
  husband, Michael Aris, an Oxford University don, was now in Yangon
  to visit her. Their sons are also allowed to visit periodically
  from the family's home in England.
     Returning to Burmese, he said through an interpreter that
  emissaries of the government had ``frequent contact'' with Mrs.
  Aung San Suu Kyi. ``We see her and ask about her health,'' he said.
  ``We ask her if she has what she needs -- if she needs money.
  Whatever she needs, we help fulfill those needs.''
     Despite his harsh criticism of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi in the
  past, the general declined to attack her on Monday except to
  remark: ``If she would change, it would be much easier for us to
  relate to her.'' In an interview in March, Khin Nyunt questioned
  Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's patriotism, labeling her a ``front'' for
  the Burmese Communist Party.
     He offered no suggestion on Monday that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi
  would be released from house arrest anytime soon. ``It is a little
  early for me to say,'' he said. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was
  detained under a law to protect the country from ``the dangers of
  subversive elements,'' has been told that she will remain under
  house arrest until at least January.
     Richardson has said he hopes to return to Yangon next month to
  meet again with the general and Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. In
  congressional testimony last month and in other recent remarks, the
  lawmaker has expressed frustration with the pace of political
  reform in Myanmar. He said he was concerned that his earlier
  meeting with the democracy leader had been merely a ``public
  relations effort'' by the military that would not lead to any sort
  of dialogue with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.
     Richardson's comments have not gone over well in Yangon. ``We
  have nothing to comment about,'' Khin Nyunt said. ``He has the
  right to air his views.'' The general did not rule out a return
  visit by the congressman, but said that ``we do not have plans'' to
  invite him.