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SCMP-Military lies coercion of MPs

SCMP-Thursday  May 13  1999

Military denies coercion of MPs

AGENCIES in Rangoon and Bangkok
The ruling junta said yesterday that dissent within opposition ranks was not
the result of coercion but represented genuine grassroots frustration at the
country's nine-year-old political impasse.

A junta official claimed divisions within Aung San Suu Kyi's National League
for Democracy (NLD) were the inevitable result of what he called the party
leadership's inflexibility and inability to meet its promises.

The comments came after a group of senior NLD members on Tuesday denied that
their call for talks with the Government two weeks ago had been forced out
of them by the military.

"It's my opinion that what these NLD members are saying is true.

"The NLD leadership should really consider it," the junta official was
quoted as saying.

"They are not attacking anyone.

"They're just trying to get over this impasse."

Dissident MP Tin Tun Maung on Tuesday said: "We want the rest of the world
to know our side of the story."

He was speaking on behalf of the group of seven MPs elected to parliament in
the NLD's 1990 landslide which the junta has never recognised.

He said the MPs did not deserve the harsh rebuke they had received from the
party leadership.

He added that they still supported the party's core aim which is to achieve
a democratic transition of power.

"Our motive was to seek another solution to the political impasse and we
harbour no guilty conscience in this matter," he said.

Another maverick NLD member, Than Tun, said: "It is evident that during the
11 years [since a bloody 1988 uprising against the Government] the NLD has
not been able to solve even a segment of the problems faced by the people."

Mr Than Tun is understood to have been expelled from the NLD about two years
ago for refusing to sign a mandate giving the central committee authority to
act on behalf of the party.

Many of the dissenters are also believed to have spent time recently under
detention in government "guesthouses", where they were encouraged to
question their political views.

The junta official claimed Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's calls for foreign investors
to stay away from Burma until the junta recognises the result of the 1990

election were causing resentment from ordinary people struggling to make
ends meet.

"Many people joined the NLD hoping to have a better life but after 10 years
they are not getting what they expect and things are going from bad to
worse," the official said.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday Burma was like a
"battlefield" where human rights are constantly abused.
"A battlefield is not necessarily a place where people are shooting at each
other," the Nobel Peace laureate said on the tape, which was smuggled out of
the country and due to be played at a conference on peace this week in The

"In civil society where basic human rights are ignored, where the rights of
the people are violated every day, it is like a battlefield where lives are
lost and people are crippled."

She also said a life without peace was not worth living and that it was
essential to justice and development.