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SCMP-No UN bribes to lift iron grip

Friday  November 27  1998


No UN bribes to lift iron grip


The United Nations will not attempt to bribe Burma's regime into lifting its
iron political grip on the country, sources close to closed-door
negotiations with the military junta said yesterday.

"There is no cheque on the table the generals could pocket and say 'thanks
very much'," one Rangoon-based diplomat said.

There has been speculation that the United Nations' Assistant
Secretary-General, Alvaro de Soto, offered a cornucopia of financial goodies
when he met the junta's powerful intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Khin
Nyunt, late last month.

A report in the International Herald Tribune yesterday said the regime had
been offered US$1 billion (HK$7.7 billion) by the UN if it opened up a
dialogue with the opposition.

Sources agreed that the UN's ability to "in principle" unlock substantial
financial help was discussed during Mr de Soto's "very exploratory" talks.

"But there is no question of anyone trying to bribe the military to ease
up," one close observer said.

"The UN is initially offering technical and humanitarian assistance - if the
Government loosens the political reins first.

"No one is going to risk hard cash in Myanmar [Burma] without some real sign
of a change of heart."

The regime described Mr de Soto's visit as "fruitful and constructive".

There was a hint of proxy negotiations when the UN envoy visited opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, then General Khin Nyunt and then briefed Ms Aung
San Suu Kyi in a further visit.

The consensus among Burma-watchers is nevertheless that no sure signal has
emerged from this tenuous exchange that the junta may be prepared to soften
its near total intolerance of criticism and opposition.