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Message from U Rewatta Dhamma

Received: (from strider) by igc2.igc.apc.org (8.6.11/Revision: 1.14 ) id HAA14351; Sat, 12 Aug 1995 07:56:38 -0700
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 1995 07:56:38 -0700

[Note: U Rewata Dhamma is a much respected Burmese Buddhist monk
who met with both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of the SLORC 
during her detention]

Aung San Suu Kyi choose which Path ?
	On the 20th of July, 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house-arrest
because of her open criticism of the Burmese Army, and of General Ne Win, in
particular. The SLORC therefore, declared that she was a threat to national
security and unity. Although she was under house-arrest her political party, the
National League For Democracy (NLD)  won over eighty percent of the seats in the
National Assembly  in the 1990 election. Many governments in the rest of the
world  and many of the Burmese Democracy movements demanded the immediate
release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the transfer of power to the the winning  NLD
party but the SLORC ignored these demands. These events served to make Aung San
Suu Kyi  the focal point for Myanmar's Democracy Movement. Moreover, since she
has been under house arrest she has been awarded many honours and prizes,
including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. It would seem that her detention has
served to make her an admirable and popular figure. Since she was  put under
house-arrest  the governments of the United States,  Japan,  Australia and those
of the European Union have urged the SLORC to release her and to hand over power
to the NLD. The United Nations had passed five resolutions designed to put
pressure on the SLORC to hand over power to the legally elected NLD  and to free
all political detainees.  The ASEAN member countries merely chose to follow a
policy of "constructive engagement" and  none of the aforementioned measures or
requests were effective.
	On Monday, the 10th of July, Aung San Suu Kyi  was freed from
house-arrest. The whole world was surprised at her release as there had been no
indications that she would be freed on that day. Many people speculated on the
reasons for her unexpected release.  In fact  she was freed not as a result of
any international pressure being imposed on the SLORC but because the SLORC had
to abide by its own rules as it had  declared that Aung San Suu Kyi could only
be detained according to the law  for just six more months that is from the 10th
of January 1995 until the 10th of July 1995. The other reasons for her release
were that the SLORC  was confident that they could handle any  situation that
might arise in the wake of her release. Moreover, they no longer regarded her as
a threat to national security, stability and unity. It is quite true that she
was freed unconditionally but in fact there is yet no guarantee that any
dialogue aimed at reconciliation will take place in the future. Therefore, Aung
San Suu Kyi, herself stated, " I have been released, that's all. There's nothing
else". Her numerous invitations to the SLORC for dialogue for reconciliation
were always answered by silence. 
	Many of us are aware that simply releasing Aung San Suu Kyi will not
necessarily lead  to any positive changes in Myanmar's political situation. She,
herself said a few  days  after  her release, "We've got to continue our work.
We've to walk a long road". Immediately upon her release all international
pressure and suspicion and tension connected with the SLORC abated, and some
countries were now willing to resume financial aid to the SLORC. However, Aung
San Suu Kyi urged the World Bank and other international lending institutions
to take a cautious approach saying: "They should wait to see whether there is a
genuine move towards reconciliation and a truly democratic system of
government". On the subject of 'constructive engagement' she said, 'I cannot say
at this moment whether foreign investment has helped our cause or not''.
	Within one day of  Aung San Suu Kyi's release however, Japan announced
that it would resume  aid to Myanmar. Similarly the ASEAN member countries
especially Malaysia, the Phillipines, and Thailand welcomed the SLORC 's
decision to free Aung San Suu Kyi as this effectively opened the door for
Myanmar to join ASEAN. They claimed membership was also Myanmar's 'birthright'
because of her geographical location. Aung San Suu Kyi's response to these
developments was,  "I wonder why the Government of Japan feels a need to hurry
about it".  "I don't think there is really such a need''.  Concerning the ASEAN
countries enthusiasm for Myanmar to join it she said,  "I will ask them to
support the cause of Democracy, nothing has changed yet, apart from my release".
She also said, "I think they should go on observing the situation very closely
and accept that we are nowhere near Democracy yet."
	We have to think carefully whether or not the ASEAN nations and Japan
will heed her remarks. I have met with quite a few people both in Asia and the
West who hold very different opinions about  what a Democracy is. Some think
Democracy is not essential for a country's economic development. Recently a
professor of Applied Economics from Boston, USA came to see me and cited
examples of this theory, saying both South Korea and Thailand had developed
economically quite successfully under military regimes and Taiwan has also
developed very well  in the last thirty two years under martial-law. He then
pointed out that they only became democratic  countries after they had developed
themselves. He also said that Indonesia is ruled by the military and it too is
enjoying sound economic development. By way of contrast he cited India as being
a democratic country, but it, indeed, only has an annual rate of economic
growth of 1%. Cambodia, too despite receiving aid from many sources had not
developed very much whereas, Myanmar has developed  her economy without  any
aid at all.  The ASEAN member countries on the whole only want Myanmar to
improve her human rights record,  abolish use of forced labour and  allow
freedom of the press. If the SLORC complies and makes these reforms then they
will not hesitate futhur to support the SLORC. 
	Although the ASEAN  nations have practised 'constructive engagement'
towards Myanmar whilst the EC and the USA initially followed a policy of
isolation and then adopted one of "critical dialogue', there is, however, much
evidence which suggests  that the SLORC paid no attention to the pressures put
on them by these countries. For example the USA used the pressure of threats
whilst the EC' s tactics have been more passive, and despite all the resolutions
regarding Myanmar that were passed by the UN it did not succeed in convincing
the SLORC to comply with any of them. The former Foreigner Minister of Thailand
said last May  whilst visiting the USA that Myanmar will change itself as soon
as her economic and political situation improve and not through any outside
pressure. Japanese Foreign Minister, Yohei Kono also said "we don't believe that
the release of Aung San Suu Kyi was brought about by the continued isolation of
Burma from the international community".
	After her release Aung San Suu Kyi found herself in a very delicate
position and faced with the dilemma  of which path to follow. If as a  "daughter
of the Tatmadaw" she were to cooperate with the SLORC totally then her followers
might become divided in their loyalty and she would lose their valued and vital
support. On the other hand, if she were to struggle on supported by the western
countries and carefully calculated pressure strategies were used in the name of
"Democracy" then without a doubt the SLORC would not entrust her with any power,
whatsoever. Bearing these things in mind we can then say that at a tactical
level, with the liberation of Aung San Suu Kyi the struggle for the Burmese
democracy movement and the SLORC has entered a new phase.
	This is a very crucial time for Aung San Suu Kyi, requiring courage,
patience and understanding. Although she had been involved in Myanmar's politics
for just eleven months prior to being put under house-arrest, even so  this is
the ideal time for her to choose wright path for her fellow countrymen  who
admire, respect and trust her to  help them to  build a Democracy and bring
peace to Myanmar, according to time and situations.