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NLD Update, Tuesday

RANGOON, May 28 (Reuter) - A congress of Burma's National League for
Democracy (NLD) ended on Tuesday with the party adopting a series of
resolutions that could infuriate the military government. NLD leader Aung
San Suu Kyi said the party's leadership would draw up a new draft
constitution for Burma, ignoring a government-sponsored constitutional
convention from which the NLD withdrew last November.  
(c) Reuters Limited 1996

By Deborah Charles

RANGOON, May 28 (Reuter) - Burma's military rulers launched a personal
attack on Tuesday on democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as her National
League for Democracy wound up a three-day congress against the backdrop of
mass detentions. The ruling military body, the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC), attacked Suu Kyi and the NLD in the official
media after holding a massive public rally on Monday to denounce
"destructionist forces" in Burma. Sources in Rangoon said the government was
expected to stage another rally on Tuesday. The government attacked Suu Kyi,
the NLD leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, in a commentary for allowing
herself to be a "puppet of the colonialist groups", calling her an "enemy of
the people" and a "traitor". "Aung San Suu Kyi, the wife of Englishman
Michael Aris, and daughter of General Aung San, the architect of Myanmar's
(Burma's) independence, is serving as a puppet of the colonialist group,"
said the commentary in Burmese-language newspapers. "The entire populace
from all across the country are now shouting to crush whoever spoils the
progress of constructive activities, whoever protests against the National
Convention, by designating them as a people's enemy," it said. Suu Kyi and
the NLD defied government intimidation and the detention of pro-democracy
politicians and began a party congress on Sunday.Suu Kyi opened the
congress, which the government tried to scuttle by seizing at least 258 NLD
members who were planning to attend, by vowing to increase the momentum of
the democracy movement. On Saturday about 5,000 people flocked to the gates
of Suu Kyi's lakeside home, where the meeting was held, and on Sunday about
10,000 showed up to underscore their support for the NLD. The government
countered with its own public rally in Rangoon on Monday, where 40,000
people chanted slogans and denounced "the traitors' acts to destabilise the
country and to spoil progress", official media reported. The military often
forces citizens to attend government-sponsored public rallies, diplomats and
opposition sources say. The fledgling democracy movement was set to end its
three-day congress on Tuesday with Suu Kyi detailing some of the party's
main policy decisions at the closing ceremony. The newspaper commentary also
denounced Suu Kyi's connections with foreigners, accusing her of dealing
with "meddling diplomats and journalists". Over the past week, Suu Kyi has
held daily news conferences for foreign journalists, issuing information
about NLD members she said had been arrested by the military government.
On Monday, Suu Kyi told reporters at her lakeside Rangoon home she was
worried about the fate of the detainees because at least two had been
charged. The SLORC has denied arresting the NLD members, saying it has only
detained them for questioning to avoid "anarchy" or unrest that could result
from the congress. The arrests have drawn international condemnation, with
many nations urging the SLORC to release the people it has detained.  

(c) Reuters Limited 1996

Burma's military government lashed out on Tuesday at democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, calling her a "puppet" of colonialist groups and an "enemy of
the people." "Aung San Suu Kyi, the architect of Myanmar's (Burma's)
independence, is serving as a puppet of the colonialist group," the
military-led government said in a commentary in Burmese-language newspapers.
"The entire populace from all across the country are now shouting to crush
whoever spoils progress of constructive activities, whoever protests against
the national convention, by designating them as a people's enemy," it said.
It is the first time Burma's government has made a clear statement since Suu
Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party defied government
intimidation and forged ahead with a three-day party congress due to end
late on Tuesday. The NLD won a landslide victory in a May 1990 general
election but the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
refused to honour the result.
A defiant Suu Kyi, shrugging off the government's detention of more than 250
party activists last week, opened the congress on Sunday vowing to increase
the momentum of the country's democracy movement. On Monday the government
held a massive public rally in Rangoon to denounce "destructionists" in the
country. About 40,000 people from 14 townships chanted slogans and denounced
"the traitors' acts to destabilise the country and to spoil progress",
official media reported. Dagon University Rector Kaung Nyunt, the main
speaker at the rally, said recent moves by the democracy movement were
intolerable. "Just as the momentum of constructive development is being
achieved, the instigation to cause instability and unrest by destructive
elements has become very intolerable," he was quoting as saying. "That is
why the people have turned out en masse today to support the government's
constructive development works, and to denounce the destructionists."
Government-sponspored public rallies are often staged with the military
forcing people to attend, diplomats and opposition sources say. The
government was expected to hold another rally on Tuesday, sources said.  
By Michael Dwyer.

The Federal Government yesterday conceded that Australia's policy stance
towards Burma had failed to encourage the country's military regime to
embrace democracy. The admission came amid mounting tension as Burma's
opposition National League for Democracy begins a concerted push for a new
Constitution. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, told
Parliament that the Coalition would maintain the previous Government's
policy on Burma. "This Government is continuing with this policy because we
see it at this stage being the most appropriate way forward," Mr Downer said.
ASEAN countries agreed to a process of constructive engagement with Burma at
their ministerial conference of 1994, prompting Australia to outline a
"benchmark" approach to its own relationship with the military regime.
Australia has established a series of "benchmarks" for Burma's governing
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) under which it would be
prepared to accept the nation's re-entry into international forums. These
benchmarks involve progress by SLORC on both human rights and
democratisation. But Mr Downer conceded that the approaches adopted by both
ASEAN and Australia had failed to shift SLORC. "As far as Burma is
concerned, we look for outcomes and policy approaches which will encourage
the process of democracy and which will encourage (opposition leader) Aung
San Suu Kyi," Mr Downer said. "This will, we hope, lead to a greater process
of liberalisation by the SLORC.



THE SLORC is confused, and like all insecure regimes it is becoming both
weaker and more dangerous. Last week the ruling military junta in Burma
(Myanmar), which bears the Orwellian title of State Law and Order Council,
arrested more than 250 members of the National League for Democracy. It did
so to prevent the NLD members from holding an entirely peaceful party
meeting. This went ahead anyway, with a huge crowd of undeterred supporters
cheering the NLD's leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "Giving in to bullying", she
told them, "is not good for... the bully or those who are bullied." The
official press has denounced Ms Suu Kyi as a "poisonous snake" and a
"sorceress." Then yesterday one tame newspaper published a commentary
addressing her in more respectful terms, and claiming that the regime
supported the "democratic principle" of freedom of association. It also
returned to the theme of dialogue between the SLORC and the democratic
forces. The NLD, we should note, though described as being "in opposition",
must by virtue of the 1990 election which it won overwhelmingly be regarded
as Burma's rightful government.
The junta has played word-games several times before, but the effect of
international pressure and adverse publicity upon it now should not be
under-estimated. Ms Suu Kyi herself deserves most of the credit: refusing to
be exiled from her native country she sat out the generals under house
arrest until they sought to regain credibility by releasing her. Since then
she has gradually found her voice while avoiding any over-provocative move.
Her strength, and that of the democracy movement, lies in the simplicity of
its demands. These are set out very clearly in a recent interview with John
Pilger - whose own work on Burma, with David Munro, has refocused our
attention on the horrors of the SLORC.* "We want a system that will
guarantee our rights so that we can live in security," she says, "so that we
do not have to wonder from day to day what will happen to us if we do
something that will annoy those in power." It should not be too much to ask.
It is not always easy to decide just how far to intervene in another
country's internal politics. But the case of Burma/Myanmar - like that of
South Africa under apartheid - is overwhelming. The only question to be
asked is what can be done most effectively. Western governments greeted Ms
Suu Kyi's release from house arrest as a signal for relaxing pressure and
encouraging trade contacts: this, as the junta's behaviour shows, sends
exactly the wrong message. The regime in Rangoon should be told that it
faces international isolation and sanctions, and that its first step must be
to release the detained NLD members. Whether or not some of these have been
sent to the Insein prison camp, conditions there for hundreds of political
prisoners, as reported by Amnesty International, are also a matter for
serious concern. Whatever governments choose to do, individuals can all make
their own decisions. No reputable travel agent or tour operator should allow
travel to Burma to remain in its brochure and the independent tourist should
stay away. No business firm should fall for the absurd and callous
proposition of a recent British trade conference that Burma will become "the
next Asian tiger." With railways and construction projects being built by
forced labour, it neither deserves to, nor does it possess the necessary
popular dynamism. Nor is it a safe bet either (as Ms Suu Kyi shrewdly
argues) so long as the brutal, but baffled, generals remain in charge.

* New Internationalist, June 1996, PO Box 79, Hertford, SG14 1AQ. 
GUARDIAN 28/5/96 P12 

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