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AP: 10,000 Attended Sunday's NLD Fo

Subject: AP: 10,000 Attended Sunday's NLD Forum


 Associated Press Writer

   RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- When pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
denounced Burma's ruling junta and vowed to fight it, millions of Burmese
too frightened to attend the speech listened to tape recordings distributed
by her supporters.
   As long as the generals rule the country, Burmese will never read a
speech by Suu Kyi in the daily newspapers. So her supporters are spreading
Suu Kyi's words on their own.
   As many as 10,000 people appeared outside Suu Kyi's home Sunday for her
weekly speech -- the largest crowd since her release last July from six
years of house arrest -- and dozens of them held as many as six cassette
recorders in their hands.
   The tapes made it around Rangoon by Monday morning, and others should
reach the countryside in a few days.
   "It was a fantastic speech. She was more defiant than usual," said Thein
Nyunt, a 30-year-old mechanic. "I was too afraid to go. But my father went
and taped it, and I think it was great."
   The tapes also reached the desks of the military regime formally known
as the State Law and Order Restoration Council. On Monday, the
state-controlled press called Suu Kyi a "maggot" and tool of a U.S.
conspiracy to colonize Burma by introducing democracy and human rights. The
people, the press says, love and support the regime.
   The people of Burma appreciate the defiance of the petite,
Oxford-educated Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her
nonviolent promotion of democracy.
   But they're afraid to show too much open support, remembering that the
military dictatorship gunned down hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators
in 1988.
   Fear runs so deep in Rangoon that the army hasn't even felt compelled to
call out extra soldiers, despite the political tension. As monsoon rains
swept the palm-lined roads Monday, people in the city went about business
as usual.
   But some of the few Burmese willing to speak to foreigners commented in
the dank shops and crowded tearooms that the only topic of conversation was
Sunday's speech. Like Thein Nyunt, they'd heard it on tape.
   On Sunday, Suu Kyi and fellow leaders of her National League for
Democracy rebuked the authorities for arresting at least 262 people --
nearly all the delegates to the party's most important conference in six
years. They demanded that the opposition victory in parliamentary elections
in May 1990 finally be recognized.
   "Giving in to bullying is not good," Suu Kyi said. "We must have the
courage to face the bully's challenge."
   Speaking to reporters Monday, Suu Kyi predicted the military regime
would detain some of her jailed supporters indefinitely and said her
personal assistant had been thrown into a prison known for torture.
   The climate of fear is reflected in Burma's primitive financial
institutions. There's not much of a stock market, but the currency black
market is a fair barometer.
   The official exchange rate for Burma's currency, the kyat, is 6 to $1.
On the black market, the kyat was recently trading for 139 to the dollar.
Rumors that the military had blocked streets to Suu Kyi's home caused the
kyat to plummet.
   "Business is bad. I lost 100,000 kyats this weekend," said a woman who
changes money in the back of her grocery shop. She refused to be
identified. Though the black market is no secret, it remains illegal.
   "People liked the speech, but they don't expect any change," said the
currency trader. "Nobody can make this government do anything they don't
want to do. They have all the guns."