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Saw Maung Meets Opposition(09/22/88

Subject: Saw Maung Meets Opposition(09/22/88)

                              The Associated Press

                     September  22, 1988, Thursday, PM cycle

HEADLINE:  Saw Maung  Meets Opposition, Asks Help In Preparing For Elections


   The new military ruler, Gen.  Saw Maung,  says the army does not intend to
hold onto power and has asked opposition leaders to help restore peace and
prepare for free elections, the opposition said today. 
    Saw Maung  made his remarks in a letter to pro-democracy activists Aung Gyi,
Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo. A copy of the letter was shown to The Associated
Press today.

   The activists sent the general a letter Tuesday calling for dialogue to
resolve the crisis that erupted after he seized power in a coup Sunday, toppling
civilian President Maung Maung.

    Saw Maung  is the third head of Burma's government in two months.

   By official count, troops have killed at least 144 people since the coup. A
Western ambassador said the actual death toll may be as high as 400.

   Rangoon was calm today with no street demonstrations for the third
consecutive day, after daily demonstrations the past two months.

   The government has described the dead as looters and "destructive elements," 
but the ambassador said many of them were unarmed, peaceful protesters demanding

   In a reply letter Wednesday,  Saw Maung  did not directly respond to the call
for dialogue. He asked for help in restoring law and order and preparing for

the polling that Maung Maung had promised.  Saw Maung  has not given any date
for the elections, the first under a multiparty system since 1960.

   The letter said:

   "The army has no intention to retain the duties of state power for a long
time, in addition to its existing onerous duties. We had to step in unavoidably 
because of the deteriorating general conditions in the country. ...

   "We promise you that free and fair general elections will be held as soon as 
peace and tranquility is restored in the country, and we hope you will cooperate
with us to achieve this objective.

   "Arrangements will be made to permit the use of government radio and
television by the political parties before the election takes place."

    Saw Maung  was named prime minister Wednesday, after having become both
defense and foreign affairs minister in the nine-member cabinet formed the day
before. Six ministers are among the 18 top military officers who helped the
59-year-old career officer seize power.

   In Rangoon, more roadside shops were open than the previous day, but larger
markets remained closed. The doors of government offices were open, but no one
was working. Most public employees have been on pro-democracy strikes since Aug.

   Sketchy reports received today from Mandalay, the second-largest city, and
other towns indicated there was fighting earlier this week between security
forces and protesters, though not as fierce as in the capital.

   Opposition leaders had succeeded in keeping the protests peaceful, but that
changed after Sunday's coup.

   Mobs have attacked government targets with weapons seized from police
stations and other places. One group opened fire with a grenade launcher and
automatic weapons late Tuesday at soldiers guarding the City Hall and the main
government administration building in downtown Rangoon.

   The past two months of turmoil began after long-time strongman Ne Win
resigned in late July and widespread riots flared against hard-liner Sein Lwin, 
his successor. Sein Lwin resigned Aug. 12. 
   Maung Maung became on Aug. 19 the first civilian leader since 1962 and
promised elections that would end the exclusive rule of the Burma Socialist
Program Party. But the opposition rejected that plan and protests persisted to
demand an interim government to conduct the balloting.

   Diplomats say  Saw Maung,  like Sein Lwin and Maung Maung, is a close
associate of Ne Win and the coup may have been staged to preserve the ruling
military autocracy.

   Ne Win's coup ended Burma's brief experiment with democracy and began a
quarter century of rigid, inept central planning that ruined the economy of one 
of the Asian countries most richly endowed in natural resources.

   Burma, once the world's largest rice exporter, last year joined 40 other
countries officially designated by the United Nations as "least developed