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FDL Quarterly  
(Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia - Pacific Region

Summer 1996, Vol. 2, No.1

By Phillip Pepper

One of the FDL-AP's primary goals since its establishment has been to
support developing democracies in the Asia-Pacific and has, in particular,
been highly supportive of the democratic movement in Burma. Late May, Madam
Aung San Suu Kyi, the party leader for the National League for Democracy
(NLD) which one over 80% of parliamentary seats in the 1990 elections,
organized the first party convention since the 1990. However, in response to
the preparations for this conference, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC) systematically arrested over 260 people, most of whom were
elected parliamentary members from the NLD. Further, as the democratic
movement in Burma, centering on Madame Suu Kyi, begins to build momentum, it
is becoming more clear that the SLORC is toughening its policies against the
democratic opposition, while human rights violations continue to rise. 

Signature Campaign

The FDL-AP has taken the initiative to collect signatures of 102 National
Assembly members of the Republic of Korea, belonging to the National
Congress for New Politics (NCNP) and the United Liberal Democrats (ULD).
These 102 National Assembly members have signed a press statement, dated
June 17, 1996, which stated the following points: one, urged the SLORC to
improve its record on human rights abuses towards the members of the
democratic opposition; two, criticized the SLORC for increasingly stringent
and abusive laws and its unwillingness to follow the 1995 UN Resolution
which guaranteed all Burmese to take part in the political process of Burma;
three, criticized the SLORC for failing to respond to Madame Aung San Suu
Kyi's constant requests to enter into a constructive dialogue with the
democratic opposition; four, expressed concern that the SLORC regimes
continuing violations could jeopardize regional stability, not simply for
Burma, but for the entire ASEAN region as well. Further, this instability
could damage economic development for Burma, as well as for neighboring
countries. Finally, that there could be massive refugee problems from
displaced Burmese citizens; five, urged the leaders of the ASEAN countries
to take firm and concerted action, economically and politically, against the
SLORC regime. A copy of this statement was also drafted and sent to General
Than Shwe, Chairman of the SLORC. 

Further on June 18, 1996, Dr. Kim Daejung, Resident Co-President of the
FDL-AP, has written letters to President Bill Clinton of the United States,
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan, and the heads of state in five
ASEAN countries. The following are excerpts from his letter: 
Dr. Kim Dae-jung's Letter

"I am very disturbed with the recent developments in Burma. As you know, the
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) has recently detained over
260 National League for Democracy (NLD) members for planning to attend the
congress in May. Although the SLORC released many of them, those released
still face the fear of re-arrest and the key members still being detained
are being coerced to withdraw and resign their membership from the NLD as a
condition to their release." 

"The SLORC also passed new laws banning all Burmese from taking part in any
political activities as well as the NLD from holding gatherings on the
grounds that they obstruct the government sponsored National Convention's
efforts to draft a constitution. The new laws mandate fines and prison terms
ranging from 5 to 20 years to those found guilty. These series of actions
taken by the SLORC violate the 1995 UN Resolution which guaranteed all
Burmese to participate in the political process of the country. We deem this
as a premeditated measure to destroy the opposition altogether. On the other
hand, however, the action taken by the military regime proves the fact that
the SLORC is extremely nervous and diffident, and not in control of the
situation in Burma." 

"We are also concerned that the SLORC's actions create further instability
in the country and seem to be heading toward a possible confrontation
between the military regime and the democratic forces similar to that of
1988. In turn, this could jeopardize the regional stability which could
inevitably have grave implications to its neighboring countries. There could
be refugees; foreign investors could shy away from the country;
international trade and the economic process could be seriously affected. In
sum, the internal instability of Burma could turn into a major crisis which
would cause regional instability and seriously damage economic cooperation
and ties among ASEAN countries." 

"We do not wish to see the SLORC and the opposition party collide head-on,
driving Burma and neighboring countries into catastrophe. We would like to
see to it that the Burmese people reach national reconciliation and fulfill
their aspiration to democracy, unity, prosperity and integration with the
international community in the near future. However, there can be no
stability in Burma, without the participation of the opposition forces in
the political process of the country since they have the mandate of the

"Therefore, I strongly call for ASEAN leaders to put collective and more
assertive pressure on the SLORC to stop pursuing their strong arm tactics
that would only lead to certain disaster, free all detained political
prisoners and immediately begin a constructive dialogue with Madame Aung San
Suu Kyi and other key political leaders with the goal of national

Bangkok and Manila Conferences
Further, two other action programs are in development at the FDLAP Seoul
Secretariat. The first is a meeting in Bangkok, under the auspices of the
FDL-AP Burma Commission, which will serve the following purposes: one, to
express FDL-AP solidarity against the recent actions of Burma's military
regime, the SLORC; two, to place pressure on the SLORC regime to enter into
a constructive dialogue with the democratic opposition; three, to urge
leaders and heads of state in ASEAN and neighboring countries to put
political and economic pressures on the SLORC regime; and four, to create a
framework for a future international conference in November for the purpose
of supporting the democratic movement in Burma. 

The second initiative in development is the November conference whose
central purpose is to invite high-level government and non-government
persons to discuss various issues concerning the democratic movement in
Burma, including the repercussions of the first NLD assembly by Madame Aung
San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, and how to halt constructive
engagement in Burma from Burma's ASEAN neighbors. The tentative location
under consideration for the November 
conference is Manila.