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New Myanmar junta questions govt of

The Straits Times
NOV 25 1997 

New Myanmar junta questions govt officials 

BANGKOK -- Myanmar's military government was questioning people at
several ministries following a government name change and shake-up
earlier this month, a government spokesman said yesterday. 

But he denied reports that some former government ministers had been
detained or put under house arrest since the ruling junta changed its
name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). 

When asked about the ministers, the spokesman would say only that
"inquiries" had been made at the relevant ministries. 

"Inquiries have been made in the ministries, but it's too early to say at
the moment what it is about," he said, refusing to give details. 

Reports had circulated in the media, on the Internet and in diplomatic
circles that several former members of the now-defunct State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc) -- abolished with the creation of the
SPDC -- had been arrested. 

"They are not picked up for questioning," the spokesman told Reuters. 

"They are staying in their houses because they have new posts and they
don't have any offices to go to yet. That's probably where the confusion
came about -- they aren't going into any office." 

Diplomats said last week that the creation of the SPDC was partly to weed
out corrupt ministers and improve the image of a government accused of
rampant corruption as the country suffered a severe economic slump. 

Four of the more prominent ministers dealing with financial issues under
the Slorc were removed from their offices and put on a newly created
Advisory Council. 

They include former Slorc member and Tourism Minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Ba;
former Trade and Commerce Minister Lt-Gen Tun Kyi; former Forestry
Minister Lt-Gen Chit Swe and the previous Agriculture Minister Lt-Gen
Myint Aung. 

The spokesman said this was the government's second phase in a three-step
plan towards democracy. 

The Slorc period was the first phase and the SPDC's goal was to keep the
peace and build up the economy so the country could eventually become a
democracy, he said. 

Diplomats said the new government, which is led by the same top four
generals as the Slorc, did not appear to have any new policy and said the
changes were made to improve its image and promote junior officers. 

The Slorc -- which ruled the country with an iron hand after seizing
power in 1988 -- and now the SPDC have been accused of trying to hold on
to power at the people's expense for the benefit of the few. 

In Yangon, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday vowed to
struggle on for democracy as riot police manned barbed-wire barricades
near a National Day celebration at her residence. 

The authorities gave permission for 200 people to gather at her
residential compound to celebrate the 77th anniversary of National Day,
which marks the birth of Myanmar's independence movement. -- Reuters,