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Suu Kyi Prods the Generals, but Sti

Subject: Suu Kyi Prods the Generals, but Still No Dialogue (ASIAWEEK).

Suu Kyi Prods the Generals, but Still No Dialogue.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a determined woman. Since her release in July from 
six years of house arrest, she has repeatedly asked the generals who run 
Myanmar to discuss the country's political future with her. The military 
junta, or State Law and Order Resotration Council (SLORC), thinks time is 
on its side. It seems content to reap what benefits it can from freeing 
one of the world's most famous political prisoners without hurrying to 
meet her. Myanmar's ambassador to Thailand, Tin Winn, recently said that 
"The government doesn't need dialogue with anybody."

Suu Kyi last week served notice that she will not be ignored. Her party, 
the National League for Democracy, reinstated her as its secreatry 
general. Inspired by Suu Kyi, the NLD won 80% of the seats in the 1990 
parliamentary elections, though SLORC refused to honor the results. The 
party's central committee was forced to expel her from her post in early 
1991, and to oust her from the party altogether later that year. Two 
other former leaders, Tin U and Kyi Maung, were also given top posts in 
the party last week. Both were released from detention in March. Tin U 
will be responsible for organisational and legal matters and Kyi Maung 
for research and foreign relations.

A government election commission reportedly rejected the NLD's new 
line-up. But as of mid-week, an assistant to Suu Kyi could not confirm 
that the NLD had received notification from the commission. The group has 
the authority to discipline political parties and prohibit any changes in 
their leadership.

An NLD spokeman said that the reshuffle was an internal party matter and 
would stand even if the commission did not approve it. Suu Kyi would play 
a leading role in the NLD even without a title. Giving her the top job 
was a way to help resuscitate a party that SLROC had nearly snuffed out. 
Suu kyi has insisted that SLORC's divide-and-rule tactics weakened the 
NLD but didn't spilt it. As proof, the party retained as chairman Aung 
Shwe. he had headed what the government called the "legal" NLD, and he 
also represents the party in the slow-moving National Convention, the 
government-appointed body drafting the constitution.

SLORC has few incentives to speed up the transition to civilian rule. Suu 
Kyi's release was aimed in part at placating foreign investors and 
international donors who were uneasy about working with a government that 
was holding a Nobel laureate in detention. Though Suu Kyi advised against 
it, Japan has resumed limited humanitarian aid, and such organisations as 
the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund are 
considering granting loans to Myanmar.

Although she has ventured outside Yangon only once, to visit a revered 
monk in Karen State, Suu Kyi has done her best to keep international 
pressure on SLORC. She sent taped messages to the Women's Forum in 
Hauirou, China, at the end of August, and to a labour and human rights 
conference in the Philippines in mid-October. She has met with the U.S. 
ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, and with Yozo 
Yokota, the U.N.'s special representative on human rights in Myanmar.

Predicting the generals'next moves is never easy. They could try check 
the NLD with legal maneuvering. Or they may attemp to the issue of 
negotiations by allowing her access to the National Convention. If the 
revitalized NLD leadership decides to endorse the party's involvement in 
the convention, SLORC would be off the hook. But the price of such a 
major concession from the NLD may be allowing Suu Kyi some say in forming 
the constitution. SLORC postponed the next session from Oct. 24 to Nov. 
28. The official reason was that delegates wanted to be home for an 
important religious festival and the post-monsoon farming. More likely, 
the generals didn't want to resume meeting at the inauspicious time of a 
solar eclipse.

The militray continues to defend its role in politics by insisting it is 
the only force capable of maintaining national unity. The National 
Convention has adopted this principle. The generals are not heading back 
to the barracks anytime soon. And if they have their way, Suu Kyi will 
never be president. Several provisions in the constitution, barring from 
the presidency anyone married to a forigner or without detailed knowledge 
of military, would clearly preclude her. Still, Suu Kyi has never said 
she wants the job, and the NLD would have no difficulty fielding an 
appropriate candidate: Aung Shwe, Tin U and Kyi Maung are all senior army 

But talk of an NLD presidential contender is still premature. The 
generals must first meet with Suu Kyi. Right now, the only thing 
resonating out of Myanmar is, as they say there, the sound of one hand 

[THE NATIONS: Myanmar - Three months after her release, Aung San Suu Kyi 
severs notice that she won't be ignored.]

(ASIAWEEK: October 27, 1995, Volume 21, Number 43, page 39).