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AP:: NLD to Increase Actions to Ser

Subject: AP:: NLD to Increase Actions to Serve Burmese People

NLD to Increase Actions to Serve Burmese People
 Associated Press Writer

   RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- Despite a crackdown that detained hundreds of her
supporters, Burma's pro-democracy leader opened an opposition congress
Sunday that signaled a renewed courage among Burmese to stand up to their
military rulers.
   Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident, threw down
her biggest challenge to the ruling junta since her release from six years
of house arrest last July.
   In her opening speech, Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy
would "increase our actions to fulfill the will of the people and bring
about national reconciliation."
   Her challenge signaled that she no longer would allow the regime to
simply ignore her repeated calls for dialogue to bring democracy to Burma.
   Wearing a traditional sarong, her hair tied back in jasmine flowers, Suu
Kyi spoke from a bamboo-and-thatch pavilion at her home built especially
for the event. Banners displayed the emblem of her party, a fighting
   Though 300 supporters applauded every sentence and chanted "Long Live
Aung San Suu Kyi," only 17 were original delegates to the party congress,
the opposition's most important planned meeting since it swept
parliamentary elections in July 1990.
   At least 238 other delegates and 24 other party members were detained in
a nationwide roundup last week intended to prevent the meeting, Suu Kyi
   Suu Kyi's party won 392 of 458 contested seats in the 1990 vote, but the
military rulers never let the parliament convene.
   Suu Kyi took time out from the conference to make her weekly address to
the public. Some 8,000 people -- the biggest crowd in years -- gathered
outside the gates of her compound, indicating a renewed courage among
Burmese who many believed had been cowed by the regime.
   Authorities made no move to interfere with the crowd. The only security
forces visible were traffic police guiding vehicles away from the throng,
which remained peaceful.
   More lively than usual, the crowd clapped and cheered as Suu Kyi and
other opposition leaders said they had tired of waiting for the military
regime formally known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council to
meet their appeals for dialogue.
   "The SLORC has broken a lot of promises," Suu Kyi said. "The SLORC
should make up all the promises they have broken. It's time they changed
their ways. It's better late than never."
   Suu Kyi said the congress would run through Tuesday.
   She refused to discuss the party policy being debated until the end of
the meeting. But she said the party's top priority would be to push for the
1990 vote to be honored.
   Even so, she held out an olive branch to the junta.
   "We not only invite the people of our country, but also the authorities,
to join us," Suu Kyi said. "Because that is the only way we can bring good
and happiness to our land."
   Suu Kyi said the meeting would be the first in a series of party
gatherings, the next of which could be held within a few months. "This is
no longer a meeting of elected representatives of the NLD," she said. "We
have decided, therefore, this will be the first in a series of NLD
   The arrests last week focused international attention on Burma and
brought new criticism of foreign companies eager to profit by helping the
junta to develop Burma's economy, destroyed during nearly 34 years of
military rule.
   Diplomats from the United States, Japan, France, Britain and Australia
attended the meeting, evidence of the new international support for Burma's
beleaguered opposition.
   Suu Kyi's vow to hold more meetings implicitly dared the junta to try to
stop her -- and further damage its reputation.
   There was no response to the meeting from government officials. The
state-controlled press, which usually ignores Suu Kyi's remarks, reported
on business deals and junta leaders visiting Buddhist shrines.
   Asked by reporters why the meeting was allowed to go forward at all, Suu
Kyi said: "It's always like that with the SLORC. They're not very
   Before Suu Kyi's speech, opposition supporters bowed their heads twice,
once for the country and once for Suu Kyi's father, Aung San, Burma's
independence hero. He was assassinated by a political rival in 1947 when
Suu Kyi was only 2.
   A moment of silence was observed for the hundreds of Burmese killed when
troops opened fire on protests against the dictatorship in 1988, when Suu
Kyi first rose to prominence.