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Pro-Democracy Meets in Rangoon

Myanmar's Pro-Democracy Group Meets

 .c The Associated Press 

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Pro-democracy activists in military-ruled Myanmar
marked the anniversary of their nullified 1990 election victory Wednesday, in
a gathering that amounted to their first legal party congress in years. 

Hundreds of other dissidents were arrested to keep them from attending the
meeting, and another dissident was beaten to death, the opposition claimed. 

The leader of the pro-democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, thanked Myanmar's
military regime for permitting the meeting of more than 400 members of the
National League for Democracy - but said it wasn't enough. 

``It is necessary to honor the results of the 1990 elections and hold the
Parliament session as soon as possible,'' said Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel
Peace Prize for her nonviolent promotion of democracy. ``Let us meet the next
time in Parliament.'' 

The pro-democracy party overwhelmingly won elections the military allowed on
May 27, 1990. But the ruling generals, surprised by the loss of pro-military
parties, never honored the results. 

National League for Democracy leaders said about 320 delegates nationwide were
detained to keep them from attending Wednesday's gathering. They urged the
delegates' immediate release. Myanmar officials denied detaining anyone. 

A political prisoner, meanwhile, was beaten to death and at least seven others
were badly injured by guards breaking up a hunger strike marking the election,
a group of dissident exiles reported. 

Aung Kyaw Moe had been serving a 14-year prison sentence at Tharyarwaddy
Prison, 120 miles north of Yangon, for his involvement in student protests in
December 1996, the All Burma Students Democratic Front said. 

The hunger strike started Friday. Kyaw Moe died in the prison hospital Sunday,
said the Front, made up of exiled students who took up arms following the
army's suppression of student-led pro-democracy riots in 1988. 

A hunger strike also was under way at another prison, the Front said. 

In a speech at her lakeside compound, a defiant Suu Kyi said that the National
League for Democracy would never accept new elections - which the military
regime is said to be considering - as long as the Parliament elected in 1990
is not allowed to convene. 

Suu Kyi again renewed her appeal for a dialogue with the ruling State Peace
and Development Council. 

``To those who are against the dialogue, I want to remind you that you can
never avoid it,'' Suu Kyi said. ``It is the desire of the people. I suggest to
the authorities, it will be wise and courageous to implement it as early as

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest or close confinement for most of the past
nine years. Her activities have been curbed by the military, which since 1962
has ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma. 

The government used mass detentions and roadblocks to frustrate Suu Kyi's
attempts to hold election anniversary congresses in 1996 and 1997. She held
them anyway, with whomever managed to arrive. 

Earlier this week, the regime urged the National League for Democracy not to
hold Wednesday's meeting in the interest of national unity. The government
approved it late Tuesday. 

Among the crowd at Suu Kyi's home were 84 members of the elected Parliament
and several diplomats. No roadblocks were seen on the street, but the usual
police guards were near her gate. 

Exile groups said Tuesday in Bangkok that the NLD has been decimated since
capturing 392 of the 485 seats in the 1990 polls. A quarter of the victors
have been imprisoned or exiled. Two have died in prison. 

A statement from the London-based human rights group Amnesty International
said that since the beginning of the year, scores of political activists have
been arrested, joining hundreds of others in prison. 

The human rights group is one of several organizations and governments sharply
critical of Myanmar's human rights record. The government has opened the
country to foreign investment over the past decade but still tolerates
virtually no political dissent. 

AP-NY-05-27-98 1308EDT