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Burma Net News May 28,1996 #425

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"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: May 29, 1996
Issue #425



28.5.96/The Nation

It is traditional to release caged birds or fish on Burmese New
Year's Day as an act of merit. In April 1989, the last Burmese
New Year I celebrated before my house arrest, we released some
doves, launching them into the emptiness above Inya Lake on which
my house stands.

The poor creatures had become used to captivity and fluttered
about in a dazed way before they gained enough confidence to take
off. One fell into the reeds at the edge of the lake and had to
be rescued and relaunched. It hovered uncertainly near us for a
few minutes before soaring away into the distance. We hoped that
its flight would not end in the snare of a bird catcher. Many
released birds are caught again and again and sold and resold to
those who wish to gain the merit of freeing caged creatures. I
could not help wondering how much value there could be to a
gesture of liberation that does not truly guarantee freedom.

This year the women's wing of the National League for Democracy
(NLD) decided they would like to arrange a fish-releasing
ceremony on New Year's Day, April 16. They were to gather at my
house and walk in procession to a pond near the Shwedagon Pagoda
where the fish could be released to swim their lives out in
peace. The Rangoon Division Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) was informed of our plan before the beginning of the
water festival which precedes the New Year.

On April 15, the authorities reacted. A number of township NLD
offices received letters from their respective Lorcs forbidding
them to go ahead with the ceremony. In addition U. Aung Shwe, the
chairman of the NLD, and two of the members of the executive
committee were asked to come to the office of the Bahan Township
Lorc. A statement was read out: The government could not allow
the NLD ceremony to take place; as the ceremony would be
conducted in the form of a public gathering organised by a
political party, it would have to be considered a political
activity and the authorities could not allow political benefit to
be derived from a traditional ceremony.

Further, such a gathering would be detrimental to peace and
harmony, to the rule of law and to the prevalence of order. It
would disturb and destroy peace and harmony in the nation and
incite fear and alarm. U Aung Shwe countered that the whole
statement was based on mere assumptions a written protest.

The reaction of the authorities was both nonsensical and
revealing. Slorc makes repeated claims that it has succeeded in
restoring law and order and peace and harmony to the land. How
fragile must be the law and order that can be seriously
threatened by a procession of women taking part in a traditional
religious ceremony. How insubstantial must be the peace and
harmony in a country where such a procession is expected to throw
the populace into a panic.

We knew that what the authorities really feared was not so much a
public disturbance as a demonstration of public support for the
NLD. However, New Year's Day should be an auspicious occasion and
we wished it to be a day of happiness rather than confrontation,
so we cancelled our plans for the releasing of fish. We would
listen to the chanting of protective sutras and pay our respects
to our elders. But the authorities had other plans.

On New Year's Day at about 11.30 in the morning, the street in
front of my house was blocked off with barbed wire barricades.
Nobody was allowed to come in or go out except members of the
security forces and numbers of awkward-looking men in civilian
clothes, each with a handkerchief tied around one wrist.

We discovered later that these were members of the Union
Solidarity and Development Association (Usda). They had been
collected from various townships and told to beat up those
members of the NLD who came in through the barricades. Usda was
assured that the authorities would be behind them. Once serious
fighting had erupted, all those involved_ would be taken away to
prison (there were several prison vans waiting at the local
police station), but Usda members t would soon be released.

The NLD members would no doubt be given substantial prison
sentences. Thus, Usda was promoted from mere tomato throwers to
that of thugs.

The planned violence did not materialise because the NLD members
took a firm, disciplined stand. They did not rush to the
barricades but they refused to leave on the orders of the
security forces. They waited for a decision to be taken by
members of the executive committee who had been allowed to come
to my house. We decided that the ceremony of paying respects to
the elders must go ahead; if our people were prevented from
coming to us, we would go out to them.

Accordingly, we walked out through the barricades to where our
people stood and thus an auspicious New Year's Day ceremony took
place in the middle of the street, near a crossroad. It seemed an
omen that the NLD would not lack public attention during the
coming year.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Letters from Burma is a series of weekly articles containing Aung
San Suu Kyi's reflections on the social, cultural political scene
in Burma today.


28.5.96/The Nation/Letter

A government that has to rely on special laws to suppress the
press, that bans hundreds of organisations and keeps people in
prison without trial, ceases to have even a shadow of
justification for its existence. That is the government in Burma
today. The ruling military junta in Burma is a model of
antidemocratic power that does not have any legitimacy in the

The arrests of over 200 members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National
League for Democracy clearly shows that the military junta is
frightened of the popularity of the Nobel Peace laureate. They
are aware that her public support is strong. But no matter what,
despite these arrests, the NLD conference will certainly boost
the morale of the Burmese people in their struggle against
military dictatorship.

We, the Sikhs in Thailand, support our Burmese brothers and
sisters in their fight for' democracy and freedom. We stand
together with them in their hour of need. We are indeed
disappointed that the government of India chooses to ignore Aung
San Suu Kyi, and has accorded recognition to the Slorc instead.
That the world's largest democracy chooses to do this is

Above all, apart from the sincere efforts of the Burmese people,
the Western capitalist powers - who untiringly proclaim
themselves as paragons of democracy and freedom for all peoples
of the world - must impose a near-total embargo on Burma to force
democratic change. Only trade, and nothing else, is the effective
tool to pressure the junta to restore democracy back to Burma.

The high-handed military action against the lady's nonviolent
campaign for democracy, just goes to show that butchers are
incapable of being humans.

Kanwaljit Singh


28.5.96/The Nation/Letter

It is obvious that the Burma situation is getting critical. To
most of us who are used to hearing only of warfare among the
various people of Burma, the latest development is a clarion call
to action, especially in re-examining the relations between
Asean, ARF, etc and Burma, or more precisely Slorc. '

What more evidence does the international community need to see
that Slorc has no intention of adhering to accepted standards of
behaviour while dealing with their own people, their neighbours
and the rest of the world when they ignore convention, by
brazenly arresting the elected representatives of the Burmese
people who wish to gather for a conference at Aung San Suu Kyi's
residence. This pussy-footing by the international community has
to stop immediately.

Many apparently feel squeamish about economic sanctions,
especially those whose private sector has much at stake in
exploiting Burma, and wish to continue the shop-worn
"constructive engagement" policy as though that was the only
infallible approach to handling a dictatorship.

It is my opinion that democracies which maintain diplomatic
relations with this lawless regime should indicate their profound
displeasure by downgrading their embassies. In this the US has
shown remarkable leadership by understaffing their Rangoon
embassy for several years. Asean should follow suit.

Chiang Mai



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


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.



May 28, 1996
Sydney Morning Herald
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



RANGOON, May 28 (Reuter) - 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 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," 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

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.



 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."


"The Asian Age", New Delhi (28 May 1996) {Page-6}

Rangoon, May 27: Burmese Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her 
National League for Democracy lunched the second day of a party congress on 
Monday which ahead despite the detention of more than 250 NLD activists in
 the military junta's attempt to stop it.

The opening day of the conference on Sunday culminated in a massive show of 
support for the NLD as a record number of people turned out in front of Ms 
Aung San Suu Kyi' house to hear one of her twice weekly addresses.

Some 10,000 people cheered and applauded as she pledged to 'march on until we 
reach our goal of democracy'. and appealed for the 'full support of the people'.

The military junta has arrested some 257 NLD activists---mostly party 
candidates who won seats in the abortive 1990 elections---in a bid to foil the 
landmark party meeting.

The meeting was originally intended to the elected representatives together to 
mark the sixth anniversary of the elections, but the detentions have forced the 
NLD to take a different tack.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that the meeting will be the first in a 
series of party congresses which will adopt positions on a new constitution, 
economic policy and issues such as human rights. 

The official press has unsurprisingly failed to comment on Sunday's meeting and 
the unprecedented rally outside Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's house, but aimed 
several darts Monday at the Opposition in thinly veiled editorials.

The Opposition rounded-up has been roundel condemned by Western countries, in 
particular the United States. (AFP)

** end **

Press Release
May 29, 1996


        Twenty-to Burmese students including three female students and one
six-year old child were rounded up by the Thai policy on their way back
from the demonstration in front of the Burmese embassy on May 27, 1996.
the demonstration marked the sixth year anniversary of 1990 multi-party
general election in Burma.
        About 200 students from different organizations joined the
demonstration on May 27 rally in Bangkok. Both plainclothes and uniform
Thai police were present but did not intervene during the rally. However,
a bus with 23 students from the "safe area" in Ratchaburi Province was
stopped by the Thai police and arrested them on their way back from the
rally. Only one Buddhist was released later, but all other 22 including
six-year- old child with his mother were detained at the Naung Khen police
station on that night.  They were transferred to Immigration Detention
Center (IDC) on the next day, on 28 May 1996, it is learnt.
        All of these 22 students are the residents of "Safe Area" in
Ratchaburi Province, run by the Thai Ministry of Interior. This camp is a
holding center for the Burmese students who fled after the 1988 bloody
coup to Thailand. All Burmese students had to register at the Thai MOI and
stay only in the designated "safe Area."  Beginning in June 1995, the
monthly allowance by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has
been cut off and forced the students to enter into the "safe area." There
are currently about 700 students in the camp including their family
        These 22 students came to Bangkok on May 27, to join the
demonstration with their fellow students in Bangkok.
        Joint Committee from five different student organization in
Thailand who organized the daily demonstration between 23-29 May released
an open letter to Thai Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa requesting him
to release all these 22 students and send them back to the "safe area."
The letter said " we are greatly concerned their plight and request the
Thai authorities not to send them back to Burma, but transfer to the safe
area."  Thai students from Student Federation of Thialnd also ask their
government to transfer their Burmese fellow to safe area today.

ABSDF News Agency

List of th students arrested on May 27, 1996

1. Saw Thet Oo 2. Ma Htwe (female) 3. Aung Myint 4. Maung Win 5. Khine Soe
Myint 6. Mu Mu (female) 7. Win Min Htun 8. U Tin Pe 9. Htun Shwe 10. Than
Hteik 11. Win San 12. Saw Lu 13. Myint Zaw (a) Gwa Tho 14. Saw Khike 15.
Sanny 16. Moe Pyan 17. Thein Thein Oo (Female) 18. Chit Oo lu
(six-year-old son of Thein Thein Oo) 19. Win Shwe 20. Saw Thar War 21. Ah
Bai Gyi 22. Maung Maung Win (They all are right now in IDC. Not charge or
sentence yet.) Please take any any that would help their release. e.g.
writing to PM, MOI and UNHCR.



JAKARTA, May 28 (Reuter) - ASEAN Secretary-General Ajit Singh said on
Tuesday officials were discussing the timing of a visit Burma had invited him
to pay to Rangoon.

``The government of Myanmar (Burma) has invited me to pay an official
visit to Yangon (Rangoon). We are currently working out the details,'' he
told an Indonesian Executive Circle lunch of diplomats and business leaders.

The chief executive of the seven-member Association of Southeast Asian
Nations later told Reuters he expected to make the trip ``in the latter part
of the year.''

An ASEAN official said the Burmese government had extended the invitation
last year.

Singh declined to comment on the current confrontation in Burma between
its military rulers and the opposition National League for Democracy other
than to say: ``As far as ASEAN is concerned, we do not interfere in each
other's internal affairs...that is a basic tenet of ASEAN.''

He said Burma was expected to get observer status in the 19-nation ASEAN
Regional Forum (ARF) -- set up to promote regional security -- at a
ministerial meeting in Jakarta in July.

Singh said Burma had applied for observer status with ASEAN itself with
the intention of eventual membership.

Thailand is the only ASEAN member to have commented officially on the
confrontation between Burma's military rulers and the NLD, headed by Nobel
Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman last
week expressed concern over the crackdown on the opposition in Burma.

Other ASEAN members are Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam,
Philippines and Brunei.



KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 (Reuter) - Burma's neighbours should break their
silence on mass political arrests by Rangoon's military government,
Malaysia's opposition leader said on Tuesday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should ``add their
voice to the international demand for the immediate release of all political
detainees,'' said Parliamentary Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang of the
Democratic Action Party.

``The continued silence of the ASEAN governments to the latest crackdown
against pro-democracy leaders in Myanmar (Burma) would be construed as
support and sympathy for the Myanmar military junta's policy of repression,''
Lim said in a statement.

Of the seven ASEAN members -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam -- only Thailand has voiced concern
over the arrests and their political consequences.

Western countries condemned last week's arrest of more than 250 Burmese
dissidents by the military government, which had sought to block a three-day
party congress of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's National League
of Democracy.

Suu Kyi ended the congress on Tuesday with the party adopting a series of
resolutions that could infuriate the govrnment.

Last year, Burma took the first step towards ASEAN membership by acceding
to its founding treaty. ASEAN leaders said they hoped Burma would join by the
end of the decade.

 ASEAN members make a point of not criticising each other.
ASEAN Secretary-General Ajit Singh on Tuesday declined to comment on the
current confrontation in Burma other than to say: ``As far as ASEAN is
concerned, we do not interfere in each other's internal affairs...that is a
basic tenet of ASEAN.''


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