[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
Suu Kyi Prods the Generals, but Sti
Subject: Suu Kyi Prods the Generals, but Still No Dialogue (ASIAWEEK).
THE SOUND OF SILENCE.
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
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
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).