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Myanmar junta gives shape to 'refor

Myanmar junta gives shape to 'reforms'

By V. Jayanth

BANGKOK, Nov. 16.  The ruling military junta in Myanmar has inducted new
blood and redefined its focus for the next phase of reforms, giving
shape to a three- tiered political and administrative- set-up that has
emerged from the redesignation of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

At the top level is the new Council, now comprising 19 members.  Senior
Gen. Than Shwe continues as Chairman and Prime Minister.  The Vice-
Chairman and the two Secretaries of the earlier SLORC have been
retained.  But a third secretary has also been added.

At the second level, the functional Government has also been
reconstituted with about 40 Ministers, many of them new faces, and the
second rung of regional commanders from the armed forces.  Their
colleagues have also been inducted to rill the 14 other seats in the top

As if to make sure that the "displaced" or dropped military officers
from the SLORC do not feel left out or begin dissident activity, the
Chairman has banded most of them together as an Advisory Group.  This
consists of 14 Lt.  Generals, most of them sacked Ministers.

Thai sources say that it is significant to see that the Ministers of
Foreign Affairs, Energy, Science and Technology and Education, among
others, have been retained in their positions to maintain some
continuity in administrative affairs.  Notable among the changes seems
to be the dropping of the Minister who was also in charge of the
National Convention that is drafting a new Constitution.

This last change is seen here as a conscious attempt to present a
different picture and possibly speed up the process of finalising the
new Constitution that has been under preparation for about five years

Now all these changes have been made by the military junta in what it
calls "in the interests of the nation and the people".  One of the
objectives mentioned in the proclamations is to endeavour to build "a
new, modern and developed nation," while another goal is to usher in a
"disciplined, flourishing democracy".

Critics of the military junta have dismissed these changes as "cosmetic"
and making little difference either to the people or to the process of
restoring democracy.

A spokesman for the Alternative ASEAN Network, based in Bangkok, says,
"This is nothing, more than a white wash and a signal to ASEAN that the
junta is making progress in its commitment to open up on the political
sector.  We want to tell both the West and ASEAN that this means nothing
and nobody can be fooled with such changes.  All the charges against the
SLORC remain and no steps have been taken either to open a dialogue with
the pro- democracy movement or to address the charges on the violation
of human rights."

The spokesman argues that the change in the name board comes at a time
of crisis for ASEAN - economic and political.  The ASEAN-EU senior
officials meeting on joint cooperation, scheduled to begin here on
Monday has been put off indefinitely because of the growing differences
between the two sides over Myanmar.