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Head of MI to meet with Aung San Su
- Subject: Head of MI to meet with Aung San Su
- From: tun@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 12 Jul 1994 23:25:00
Subject: Head of MI to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi
<TDAT> NYT-07-11-94 2106EDT
HEAD OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE TO MEET WITH IMPRISONED OPPOSITION
By PHILIP SHENON
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 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
``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