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US urges ASEAN to maintain pressure

Subject: US urges ASEAN to maintain pressure on Burma.


RANGOON: The most senior United States official to visit Burma in nearly 
a decade has bluntly told Rangoon's military rulers they had to open 
talks with political opponent Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and move toward 
democracy before there could be closer ties with Washington.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Madeleine Albright, later 
told a news conference in Bangkok on Saturday that the US hoped other 
countries would follow a similar hard line.

"The only way to encourage the SLORC to better behaviour is by pressing 
the case that they need to behave better and not rewardinf them for what 
is basically a very small step," she said.

The "small step" was the decision by the SLORC, as the junta is known, to 
release Ms Suu Kyi from nearly six years of house arrest on July 10.

In a statement read to the press in Rangoon, Ms Albright said she had 
told Burma's military intelligence Chief, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, 
"that his country's isolationwould only deepen unless concrete steps 
toward political freedom were taken".

"I urged the SLORC to choose the path of true democracy rathen than 
continued repression and dictatorial control," she said.

Ms Albright had asked SLORC officials "to begin a meaningful dialogue 
with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic leaders for the purpose of 
reconciliation and broadening the space for political discussion within 
the country".

She was "modestly encouraged" to hear SLORC was considering a political 
dialogue with Ms Suu Kyi, "but my Government does not believe that such 
as a dialogue should be delayed any longer".

Ms Suu Kyi assured her in a two-hour breakfast meeting on Saturday that 
she was ready to begin that dialogue quickly, Ms Albright said.

Ms Albright, who delivered messages to Ms Suu Kyi from President Clinton 
and his wife, Hillary, also urged the SLORC to free more political 
prisoners, halt attacks on ethnic minorities, end forced labour and 
forced porterage and let the Red Cross visit Burmese prisons.

Ms Albright, 59, the highest-ranking US official to visit Burma since the 
military crackdown in 1988, cautioned the Association of South-East Asian 
Nations States not to "misinterpret my trip as some warming trend" in 
US-Burma relations.

ASEAN promoted a policy of "Constructive Engagement" with the Burmese 
regime in contrast to the US position that Rangoon should be isolated 
both politically and economically.

"We think that it is important for to be a democratic change and that 
supporting the SLORC through investment is not the best approach is to 
keep putting pressure on them to change, and that was the purpose of what 
I was doing there," she said.

"The US wants to make very clear that we are not prepared ourselves to 
undertake more elaborate relations and we would hope that other countries 
would not either," she said in Bangkok.

General Khin Nyunt was "a little surprised" at her tough talk, she said, 
including when she "shot back" at his suggestion that the many smiling 
Burmese people indicated broad public support for the SLORC.

"I said that has been my experience, in a lifetime of studying repressive 
societies, that dictators often declude themselves into believing they 
have popular support, but that people often smile not because of happy 
but because they are afraid."

General Khin Nyunt responded with "a nervous smile", she told the press.

(The Australian, September 11, 1995, page 6).