[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Burma Allows Opposition Meeting (r)

Burma Allows Opposition Meeting 
Friday, September 26, 1997; 11:10 a.m. EDT 
RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- Burma's military rulers gave permission today to 
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party to hold a congress 
this weekend, easing fears of mass arrests. 
About 300 people will be allowed to gather at Suu Kyi's lakeside compound on 
the condition that they meet "in a peaceful and orderly manner," the ruling 
State Law and Order Restoration Council said in a statement. 
It was the council's second overture in a week toward Suu Kyi's National 
League for Democracy, following an attempt by Gen. Khin Nyunt, one of the 
regime's top generals, to meet NLD Chairman Aung Shwe. 
Suu Kyi was considered to have suffered a rare public relations loss by 
refusing to allow Aung Shwe to meet Khin Nyunt unless she and other top 
leaders were present. 
Though Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has long called for 
political dialogue, many in her party feared last week's offer of limited 
talks was a government bid to divide the leadership and weaken the opposition. 

It was unclear whether the regime's apparent softening represented a 
breakthrough in Burma's political deadlock or if the government simply felt 
confident enough to allow a small number of opponents to meet without fear of 
being toppled. 
Maj. Gen. Khin Maung Than, Rangoon military region commander, summoned Soe 
Mying, a member of the NLD central executive committee, to inform him the 
meeting could take place, the statement said. 
About 600 NLD members have been invited to attend the gathering, which marks 
the ninth anniversary of the group's founding after an uprising against 
military rule in 1988 was violently quelled. 
Four hundred people arrived in Rangoon from outlying districts, although it 
appeared some would be turned back. 
Access to University Avenue, leading to Suu Kyi's home, has been restricted by 
police for a year to prevent weekend rallies outside her house-once attended 
by upwards of 10,000 people-following her release in July 1995 from six years 
of house arrest. 
During the past year, the government has discouraged Suu Kyi from leaving her 
home to meet with supporters, though she is allowed to leave for private 
This weekend's congress would be the first allowed since Suu Kyi was freed. 
Before a scheduled congress in May 1996, the regime detained 262 party 
members. Party officials said more than 800 were arrested in September last 
Although most were later released after a couple of weeks, a few dozen were 
held and are now serving long prison sentences. 
"I don't think the authorities will hinder this meeting from taking place," 
said a party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 
Party officials said local military authorities in Irrawaddy Division, located 
south of Rangoon, had intimidated NLD members into staying away from the 
capital. Otherwise, party members were not stopped from traveling to Rangoon. 
In his invitation to party members, Aung Shwe said the congress will analyze 
the party's work in its nine-year existence and discuss ways to implement its 
The ruling council is believed to have come under quiet pressure from the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations to break the political deadlock in 
exchange for bringing in Burma as a member this year. 
ASEAN rejected Western calls to deny membership to Burma in protest of the 
repression of democrats and ethnic minorities.