[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Sydney Morning Herald 5/28

May 28, 1996

              First signs of softening in regime's cycle of repression

              By MARK BAKER, Herald Correspondent in Rangoon

              Burma's military leadership has given the first hints that it might be ready
              for a political solution to its bitter, seven-year conflict with the country's
              democracy movement.

              As Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continued to stage a congress of her
              National League for Democracy (NLD) in defiance of the regime, Burma's
              Government-controlled press yesterday outlined conditions for a possible
              peace dialogue.

              A commentary published in the country's two Burmese language newspapers
              denied the regime was opposed to a dialogue with Ms Suu Kyi and conceded
              that the majority of Burmese wanted national reconciliation.

              It indicated the regime might be prepared to open talks, provided the NLD
              accepted a continuing central political role for the military and agreed to a
              process of "mutual confidence building".

              It said that if Ms Suu Kyi were prepared to "build national reconciliation
              with a sacrificing spirit" the dialogue would be smooth and fast.

              But the commentary also warned that if she attempted to drive the
              authorities into a corner through domestic and international agitation "the
              country and people will have to remain in trouble for a long time to come".

              Political analysts said the article - expressed in unusually polite and
              conciliatory language - was the first formal acknowledgment by the regime
              of Ms Suu Kyi's demand for dialogue. 

              But they were uncertain whether the comments signalled a genuine shift in
              the regime's hard line, or were simply an attempt to deflect mounting
              international criticism.

              Other articles published in the official press yesterday continued the
              regime's usual belligerent rhetoric against the democracy movement. One
              described Ms Suu Kyi and her supporters as "bastards who stink like slaves."
              Another described them as "maggots in the flesh".

              The developments came as several hundred NLD officials held the second day
              of a congress which the authorities have attempted to block by detaining
              more than 260 party members.

              The arrests have been denounced by Western governments and the United
              States has announced that it will lobby for tougher international action
              against Burma in response to the crackdown.

              On Sunday Ms Suu Kyi - released last July from six years' house arrest -
              announced a renewed campaign to force the regime to honour the NLD's
              landslide 1990 election win. 

              While she has previously accepted the military's important role in Burmese
              society, her delegates walked out of a convention last year which is drafting
              a new Constitution that would entrench the military's grip on power and bar
              her from leading the country.

              Yesterday's commentary stressed that Ms Suu Kyi must declare her
              willingness to engage in a reconciliation process that accepted the "key" role
              of the armed forces in politics.

              It said differences needed to be negotiated with tolerance and Ms Suu Kyi's
              failure to define the kind of dialogue she wanted had complicated the

              "If a party really believes that national reconciliation is necessary, it will
              have to build mutual confidence through sacrifices," it said.

              Such confidence building was complicated by Ms Suu Kyi's opposition to the
              use of forced labour on national infrastructure projects and military
              portering, and her calls for foreign investors to stay away from Burma until
              it achieved democracy.

              The article said "public labour contributions" were essential to rebuild the
              country and porters had been essential for counter-insurgency operations,
              although the need was now diminishing.