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Military has failed to break democr

Subject: Military has failed to break democracy movement

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The Daily Yomiuri Newspaper
February 18, 1996


YANGON (AP)   Myanmar's democracy movement is
gaining strength behind the scenes, despite a campaign of
arrests and intimidation by the military government, says
dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The National League for Democracy is not a spent force,"
the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner said of her political
party during a recent interview with AP.

However, it is getting harder for Suu Kyi to send that
message. The military has told foreign leaders and
diplomats, such as Australian Foreign Minister Gareth
Evans, that they are not welcome in Myanmar to see Suu

It's a stark change from the heady days last July when the
military suddenly released the 50-year-old party leader after
six years of house arrest. Hopes were high that Myanmar's
leaders might finally be prepared to loosen their grip on

Suu Kyi called for a dialogue but the government spurned
the demand. In November, she pulled her party out of a
constitutional convention that democracy advocates labeled
a sham. The generals responded with a crackdown, arresting
several of her supporters.

Some say time is now working against the democracy
movement and Suu Kyi is losing credibility. Meanwhile, the
military is arming itself, using funds from foreign

But the elegant woman people simply call "The Lady" said
people are increasingly turning to the NLD, which is
rebuilding into a more unified and effective organization.

NLD delegations from around the country regularly travel to
Suu Kyi's home to discuss strategy and tactics. She has met
with thousands of representatives from villages.

"We all sit down on the floor, mainly because, as you can
see, we don't have enough chairs," Suu Kyi said, laughing.

She was forced to sell most of her furniture to survive
during her arrest. Today, her home is largely bare except for
a few tables and photos of her father, Myanmar's
independence hero Aung San, who was assassinated in
1947, and her mother.

NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo said the party is building a
political, social and administrative network to counter the
government's. Villagers are asked to work with local NLD
legal aid, health and education committees.

Simply because outsiders can't see what's happening, Suu
Kyi stressed, doesn't mean there is no progress.

"People never admit that when they say they want to see
something happening, what they really mean is that they
want to see people pouring out into the streets demanding
democracy," she said.

That won't work, she said. In 1988 the army killed
thousands of unarmed demonstrators, firing freely into
crowds of university students, schoolchildren and medical

"After I was arrested in 1989, there were no
demonstrations," Suu Kyi said. "Most observers came to the
conclusion that the NLD was not going to win (the 1990
elections), because obviously the people were not
supporting us enthusiastically."

Her party captured 80 percent of the vote, but the military
government refused to honor the outcome and jailed many
elected representatives.

The recent wave of arrests, NLD leaders said, is proof that
their movement is growing, not dwindling.

While the military leaders appear confident in the economic
future, NLD leaders believe the economy will deteriorate,
turning the tide in their favor. Economic hardships helped
spark the 1988 uprising.