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"Myanmar enters dangerous, illusion

Subject: "Myanmar enters dangerous, illusion-free phase" from The Economist

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>From The Economist
(reprinted in The Daily Yomiuri, 12/4/95)

Bangkok - To say the process of national reconciliation in
Myanmar broke down Tuesday would not be quite accurate. 
It had never begun.  Hopes to the contrary were kindled in
July by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition
leader, form six years of house arrest.  But they proved
illusory and Tuesday was the day everybody stopped

Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, pulled
out of a meeting of Myanmar's "constitutional convention,"
the first to be held by the ruling military junta since her
release.  Suu Kyi explained that she could not support a
convention that "was not heading for what the people
want."  The last time the people were asked what they
wanted, in an election in 1990, they overwhelmingly chose
her party.  The junta, known as the State Law and Order
Restoration Council, ignored the outcome.  Instead, it set
up the convention to draw up a civilian constitution.

The junta has treated the convention rather as the teacher in
one of Evelyn Waugh's novels handled an unruly class.  he
set an essay competition, to be judged solely on the criterion
of length.  The junta likewise has appeared in no hurry for
the delegates to finish.  the convention has met on and off
since January 1993, and had been in recess since April.

The quality of the convention's work is certainly not an
issue.  Of the roughly 700 delegates, 600 are appointed by
the junta.  They will eventually endorse a constitution that
will guarantee a continued "leading role" for the armed
forces.  It will also bar anyone married to a foreigner from
high political office -- a provision clearly aimed at Suu Kyi,
who has an English husband.

So her party's boycott of the convention is less surprising
than its prolonged shilly - shallying about it.  But the theme
of Suu Kyi's speeches since her freedom has been "dialogue
and reconciliation."  Mindful of the carnage that surrounded
the junta's seizure of power in 1988, she had time and again
called on the generals to talk to her.  She did not want to be
the one to close the door.  So her party's delegates turned
up at the convention before withdrawing.  Their stated
hope, for a change in procedures, always seemed forlorn. 
More likely, they wanted to show they had tried.

Suu Kyi is now hoping international pressure can persuade
the junta to engage her in talks.  In particular, sh wants the
United Nations to condemn the regime, rather than pat it on
the back for freeing her.  The U.N. General Assembly is due
to pass a resolution on Myanmar this month.  She also says
that foreign investors keen to enter Myanmar "jolly well
should wait."

The junta's image has done well out of her release, and her
mild and optimistic statements since.  But now Myanmar's
politics is entering a dangerous phase.  Suu Kyi is no longer
playing the generals' game, and they may be tempted to
silence her once again., Suu Kyi's many supporters, who
have heeded her calls for patience, may wonder what they
are waiting for.