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NEWS - Feud Exposes Myanmar's ''War

Subject: NEWS - Feud Exposes Myanmar's ''War of Attrition''

Feud Exposes Myanmar's ''War of Attrition''


               BANGKOK, May 6 (Reuters) - A feud between Myanmar's
opposition and a
               handful of dissidents has rekindled debate about how best
to push the ruling
               generals towards democracy. 

               But diplomats say it is unlikely to diminish
international support for Nobel
               Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy or
               cause the party itself to alter course. 

               The NLD has accused three politicians who won seats in
its landslide
               election win in 1990 of colluding with the military,
which annulled the poll
               result, to try to split the party. 

               Than Tun, Tin Tun Maung and Kyi Win broke ranks with the
NLD over its
               move to set up a committee to represent the parliament
elected in 1990. A
               plan to assemble the parliament itself has been thwarted
by the detention of
               many elected NLD candidates. 

               The three stated their opposition in a signed paper. 

               Than Tun and Kyi Win say they acted of their own free
will, but a diplomat in
               Yangon quoted NLD vice chairman Tin Oo as saying that
many of the
               paper's 25 signatories had said they were duped into
signing and had
               withdrawn their support. 

               It is not the first time Than Tun has opposed the NLD
leadership on a
               sensitive issue. In 1996 he became one of only two
representatives ever
               expelled by the party after criticising its decision to
quit a constitutional

               Diplomats characterised the spat as the latest act in a
long war of attrition
               between the military and the opposition and said it was
likely signatories had
               acted under duress. 

               "Whether it represents a split within the NLD, I don't
know," one said. "But it's
               clear all MPs are under pressure to disengage from the
NLD. The party's
               been under incredible pressure since setting up the

               Official media say 26,000 NLD members have quit since the
committee was
               set up last year and more than one million people have
signed anti-NLD
               petitions. The NLD says the government used coercion to
               resignations and signatures. 

               "The government's been quite clever in the way it's done
all this," a
               European diplomat said. "Basically it's been saying to
people, if you don't
               bother us and stay quiet we'll let you stay free, but if
you do we'll put you in

               Despite the obvious repression, the question now being
asked among
               diplomats is whether the NLD is right to stick to its
insistence for
               implementation of the 1990 election result. 

               "Time is passing and nothing is happening," said the
first diplomat. "There
               are those who argue that there has been very little
concrete achievement." 

               Last year the government detained hundreds of NLD members
after the
               party vowed to call a "people's parliament." Around 100
NLD elected
               representatives remain in detention. 

               Some believe change could be more effectively brought
about though
               economic and political engagement rather than the
sanctions imposed by
               Washington and Europe. 

               "There's dialogue going on with the very strange
government in North
               Korea," the European diplomat said. "This is a pretty
strange government,
               but is it any worse than in North Korea?" 

               Doubters argue Suu Kyi's status as an international human
rights icon may
               be part of the problem. 

               "She is definitely in a very difficult position," the
European diplomat said.
               "She may be worried that diminishing her demands might
diminish her
               international status and Gandhi-esque aura and the whole
impetus of her
               movement might be damaged. 

               "And the NLD won the election and if they do agree to be
more flexible that
               would mean giving up that legally won election." 

               Despite the growing frustration at a lack of progress,
there is little sign
               international pressure on the government is likely to
ease or that support for
               Suu Kyi will diminish. 

               "I think it's very unlikely there will be any dilution of
international feeling. She
               has some very powerful and influential supporters
overseas, in the U.S.
               Congress and elsewhere, and that's not going to suddenly