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Reuters-ANALYSIS-No rapprochement i
- Subject: Reuters-ANALYSIS-No rapprochement i
- From: tinkyi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 00:02:00
Subject: Reuters-ANALYSIS-No rapprochement in sight in Myanmar
ANALYSIS-No rapprochement in sight in Myanmar
02:18 a.m. May 02, 1999 Eastern
By David Brunnstrom
YANGON, May 2 (Reuters) - The decade-old standoff between Myanmar's generals
and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a gritty battle of wills that
threatens to drag on many more years.
Like protagonists trapped in a miserable marriage, they are stuck with each
other but unable to exchange a kind word.
Interviews with both sides last week made clear the lack of mutual
confidence needed for rapprochement. Each accuses the other of intransigence
and ruining things for everybody else and neither appears willing to give a
single charitable inch.
This was most starkly demonstrated last month when the government refused a
visa to Suu Kyi's British husband Michael Aris to see her a final time
before he died of cancer.
Given the mood, the stalemate, which began in 1988 when the military took
direct power by crushing a pro-democracy uprising, looks set to play on for
some considerable time.
And the country's economic development will continue to be hampered while it
``Every time, whenever they have the opportunity, they oppose, denounce,
attack and condemn,'' Foreign Minister Win Aung said of Suu Kyi and her
National League for Democracy (NLD). ``How can you create ground where we
can stand together?''
Suu Kyi said she thought talks would come eventually and she did not think
it would take another 10 years to achieve democracy. But she was unwilling
to go further.
``I can only say that this is my opinion. I am not a prophet, I am not an
astrologer... You can never tell in politics, 24 hours can be a long time,
or 24 years can be nothing.''
She offered the example of talks that followed long years of conflict
between Palestinians and Israelis, and negotiations between South Africa's
white government and the African National Congress.
In Myanmar it is hard to see a catalyst for change.
Some opponents of the military look back wistfully to the 1988 uprising
during which their dreams seemed to hover tantalisingly close before the
military bloodily reasserted its power.
But diplomats say the brutality of the suppression of the movement makes a
repeat bid unlikely, despite mounting discontent at an economic relapse and
50 percent annual inflation.
Many opponents of the military have held out hope the eventual demise of
officially retired strongman Ne Win, the architect of authoritarian rule,
could be a turning point.
Diplomats say the octogenarian not only appears sprightly for his age but
there are now growing doubts as to the influence he still retains on the
The rumour mill periodically churns out tales of impending splits within the
army but none has ever materialised.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of independence hero Aung San and the 1991 Nobel Peace
laureate, remains hugely popular, but in a land where guns have meant power
for nearly four decades, this is clearly not enough.
Myanmar has been subject to U.S. and E.U. sanctions because of its treatment
of the NLD. These have limited investment amid a loss of inflows from
crisis-hit Asia, and clearly rankle with government, but appear only to have
hardened its stance.
``We had a vision we could start our economy moving with tourism,'' Win Aung
said. ``So we put in a lot of effort and money for that. Then (the NLD) had
a campaign not to visit Myanmar.
``They have lost the opportunity. They have lost the chance. The people have
come to understand the real motive of the NLD -- just for power, not for the
``We in our country will steadfastly do what is right for our country
regardless of whatever actions they take,'' he said of the sanctions. ``We
cannot deviate from our chosen path.''
The crux remains the last election, in 1990, which the military staged but
refused to honour when the NLD won.
The NLD has stuck to its insistence that power be transferred and set up a
committee last year to represent parliament, prompting the arrest of
hundreds of its members.
The government says all will be freed if the NLD disbands its committee; Suu
Kyi says it will once parliament is formed.
Some government officials have all but stopped arguing the point. One said
the makeup of the government had changed three times since 1990 and the
election itself was a mistake.
``You can't blame this government for actions of a previous government. This
is a completely different set of generals.''