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Junta lets Aung San Suu Kyi hold Na

Junta lets Aung San Suu Kyi hold National Day celebration
Thai envoy joins host of dignitaries

Bangkok Post, 25/11/97.

Rangoon, AP

Authorities allowed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to hold a
mass meeting at her home yesterday to celebrate National Day, but restricted
the numbers attending.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party had invitied more
than 850 people.

Local authorities gave permissison for 200 people to attend, but about 350
were present, including 100 who had arrived the previous day and spent the

The crowd included party fathful in their customary peach-coloured
traditional jacktes, as well as heads of diplomatic missions from Thailand,
the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy. Australia, Japan, South
Korea, and the Philippines.

A senior Thai official in Bangkok said the participation of Thailand's
ambassador to Burma, Poksak Nilubol, was consistent with Thai policy since
the release of Suu Kyi from house arrest two years ago.

 Foreign Ministry spokesman Surapong Jayanama said yesterday's attendance
followed clear indications that the ruling SPDC (formerly SLORC) recognised
the NLD as a political group and wanted dialogue with it.

The apparent wish for dialogue was a "good sign" and the ambassador's
presence could not be misconstrued as interference, said the spokesman.

Ambassador Poksak and his counterpart from the Philippines were the only
Asean ambassador at the gathering, to which members of the diplomatic
community in Rangoon were invited.

Visitors were forced to waited at police checkpoints and prove their
indentities. The diplomats were made to wait as long as 30 minutes before
being allowed to pass. An unknown number of people were turned back.

Suu Kyi expressed irritation at the restrictions, telling a reporter that
such activitywas what the country's military government was talking about
when it touted the virtues of "disciplined democracy".

The NLD continued to operate under tight restrictions imposed by the junta
that took power in 1988. The party won a landslide victory in a 1990 general
election, but the military government never allowed Parliment to convene.

Through the sate-controlled media, the military government has constantly
tried to paint the opposition party and its leaders as unpatriotic and
irresponsible. Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest from 1989-95, is allowed
only limited contact with the general public.

In a brief speech to the crowd Suu Kyi said: "Tolerance, mutual respect and
understanding are necessary for the solution of problems. In the interest of
the people, we will proceed with our political activities with courage and

"We are carrying out our political activities not to oppose anyone but as a
legal party carrying out its legal party work," she added.

Other party official gave speeches about the history of National Day and
read a message of support from Bohmu Aung, one of the country's surviving
independence figthers, who could not attend the ceremony due to ill health.
Bohmu Aung's message called for dialogue between the government and the NLD.

The government, in its own National Day message, also referred to the
political tensions with the opposition groups.

In his message, published in the state press yesterday, junta chairman Gen
Than Shwe referred to Suu Kyi, without specifically naming her, as an
unpatriotic enemy of the nation, and said that "neocolonialists" were
interfeeering in other's internal affairs to install their puppets in power.

"Those who are lacking in patriotism, those who disregard the dignity of
one's own naton and race are enemies of the nation," he said.

National Day commemorates the first university students' strike, held 77
years ago. The strike rekindled the country's nationalistic spirit and
marked a historically significant step toward the struggle for independence
from British.