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Limited opposition congress allowed

South China Morning Post
Saturday  September 27  1997
Limited opposition congress allowed 
WILLIAM BARNES and Agencies in Bangkok 
Burmese authorities yesterday agreed Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party could 
hold a two-day congress but with limited numbers.
The chief of Rangoon's military command has told the National League for 
Democracy (NLD) it could hold the weekend meeting.
But only 300 of the 1,000 invited would be allowed to attend.
Burma's ruling junta has blocked previous attempts by the party to hold big 
meetings and detained hundreds of supporters. Only half of those invited were 
expected to turn up at Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's residence today for the start of 
the meeting.
Many others from outside Rangoon have been prevented from travelling to the 
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to tell her supporters to "keep the faith" and 
be prepared for dramatic changes.
This weekend's ninth anniversary of the party's creation comes at a time when 
the opposition has never appeared so far from power, yet so near, diplomats in 
Rangoon say.
After a brief spurt, foreign investment is fizzling out and the economy 
appears in dire straits, rapidly eroding the junta's hopes of buying off 
pressures for political change with increased wealth.
"We know that the cracks within a regime like this only start to show very 
near the end," an NLD member said yesterday. "We do not have to be impressed 
by its so-called power and unity.
"We know that in South Africa the ANC [Nelson Mandela's party] worked on its 
policy platform for years before they saw the door to power open. We have to 
respect that kind of example."
And a diplomat said: "I do detect a real feeling [in the opposition] that the 
State Law and Order Restoration Council is not half so cocksure these days, 
that a lot of its plans have gone awry."
But he added: "These guys . . . see no reason why they should throw themselves 
- as they would see it - at the mercy of their enemies."
League officials are convinced that some day in the not-too-distant future the 
junta - isolated and broke - will have to ease its iron grip on Burma.