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Reuters-ANALYSIS-Feud exposes Myanm

Subject: Reuters-ANALYSIS-Feud exposes Myanmar's ``war of attrition'' 

ANALYSIS-Feud exposes Myanmar's ``war of attrition''
05:18 a.m. May 06, 1999 Eastern
By David Brunnstrom

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25 signatories had said they were duped into signing and had withdrawn their

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 convention.

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 committee.''

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 secure 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 jail.''

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

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

``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