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India News paper

Suu Kyi may agree to ASEAN mediation

By V. Jayanth
SINGAPORE, Nov.26: Officials is Manila said Nobel laureate, during her
meeting last month with the Phillippine Foreign Secretary, Mr. Domingo
Siazon, agreed to AEAN arranging a meeting between her and the military
leadership in Yangon. Since her release in July 1995, Ms. Suu Kyi has
been saying she is for a dialogue with the junta. This year
representatives of the junta had meetings with functionaries of her
National League for Democracy (NLD). Though both sides have not revealed
the contents of these meetings, Ms. Suu Kyi has said the Generals cannot
succeed in driving a wedge between her and other NLD leaders. She has
made it clear that the party will not abandon her just to get ahead with
the dialogue process.

The recent change of name of the apex governing body in Myanmar, from
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to the State Peace
and Development Council (SPCC) provides an opportunity for the ruling
junta to open a genuine dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition
parties. According to sources in Yangon, the dissension and the extent
of corruption in the erst-while SLORC have come out in the open now. Not
only have a majority of the old ministers been eased out, at least three
have been placed under house arrest. A detailed enquiry is reported to
have been ordered into charges of corruption and irregularites against
these Ministers and the Government agencies that functioned under them.
In particular, the Trade and Agriculture Ministers have been grilled and
so also their children on certain deals and transactions. Many of the
trading houses in Singapore, reportedly used the children of Generals as
conduits in their transactions with the junta.

Analysts believe that the inquiry and house arrests have served to
expose the differences among the ruling Generals and that this could
provide an ideal opening for the SPDC to initiate a dialogue with the
opposition for national reconciliation, "Considering the embarrassment
Myanmar has caused ASEAN and its Western dialogue partners, notably the
EU, it is time for the generals to realise that the credibility if ASEAN
is at stake in this process. Unless the grouping is able to persuade the
generals to open the door for political reforms, ASEAN may lose ground
in the international fora. It is imperative for both to effect some
perceptible changes in Yangon to convince the world that constructive
engagement is indeed the right policy", sources at the Institute of
South-east Asian Studies here said.

Without offering any solutions ASEAN can serve as a meeting ground for
the SPDC and the NLD to agree on an agenda for talks. But till now,
there is no indication from the junta on its accepting a role for ASEAN.
But analysts consider the visit of the Philippine President, Mr. Fideal
Ramos and his Foreign Secretary, Mr. Siazon's meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi,
as an indication of the junta's willingness, Since the Philippines
chairs the ASEAN Standing Committee this year and will host the annual
ASEAN Ministerial meeting in 1998, it should take the lead in brokering
a negotiate. settlement.

Sources say that ASEAN will surely want to show progress on Myanmar
before the 1998 meetings in Manila when its dialogue partners will meet
again with Myanmar. If there is no progress, some of them might abstain.
But before that, even the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) hangs in the
balance, as Malaysia insists on Myanmar's acceptance into the forum
while the EU is opposed to it.     The Hindu News paper, 27/ 11/ 97.