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Burma's opposition shows split

Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 01:46 GMT 02:46 UK 

             World: Asia-Pacific

             Burma's opposition shows

             Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire from her own party 

             By South East Asia Correspondent Simon Ingram 

             There are signs of dissent within the ranks of Burma's
             main opposition party amid continuing political

             Last month parliamentary members of the National
             League for Democracy issued a statement calling for
             renewed attempts to begin dialogue with the military
             government. They were implicitly critical of the strategy
             adopted by the internationally respected party leader,
             Aung San Suu Kyi. 

             Now the NLD has issued a sharply worded riposte,
             accusing the party critics of being lackeys of the

             The letter, signed by 25 NLD MPs, is an unusually
             forthright indictment of the party's recent political
             strategy and, implicitly at least, an attack on Miss Suu

             It was Miss Suu Kyi, who, last year, sought to raise the
             stakes in the NLD's long-running confrontation with the
             military government by demanding the convening of the
             parliament elected in 1990 - an election the military
             never recognised. 

             According to the letter, her call backfired disastrously,
             encouraging the government to begin the systematic
             dismantling of the NLD leadership, detaining hundreds of
             people and forcing many to resign their party

             'Lackeys' of the military 

             At least one of the signatories, Than Tun, has voiced
             criticism of the NLD leadership before. His outburst this
             time has brought a fierce response. A statement issued
             by the NLD leadership singled out Than Tun and two
             other signatories, all three of whom were temporarily
             detained by the authorities, denouncing them as lackeys
             of Burmese military intelligence. It accused them of
             attempting to sow disunity within NLD ranks. 

             The call for dialogue with the regime is not new. In an
             interview last week Miss Suu Kyi herself predicted an

             eventual return to the negotiating table. The
             sticking-point has been her personal participation -
             something the regime adamantly opposes. In the long
             months of stalemate, other criticism of her stand has
             been heard, not least from foreign investors and some
             Western diplomats. 

             But although this outburst is likely to be seized on by
             the military, there is little suggestion that her standing at
             the head of the party is under serious challenge.