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Issue Date:  February 8, 2008

Suu Kyi sees no change soon in Burma

Inter Press Service

Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, used a rare moment of freedom in the military-ruled country to urge Asian governments not to be lulled into believing the junta’s promises of political change.

Suu Kyi was allowed to meet with members of the National League for Democracy Jan. 30. The meeting at a military guesthouse in Rangoon was the second time in three years that she has been allowed to meet with the political party she heads. Burma’s junta has kept the Nobel Peace laureate under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

She told her party leaders that she is “not satisfied” with the meetings she has had with the junta’s liaison to resolve the country’s current political crisis, a National League for Democracy spokesman told reporters in Rangoon.

Most worrying to Suu Kyi is “the lack of any time frame” in the mediation talks, said spokesman Nyan Win. “We should hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he quoted her as having said.

Suu Kyi’s meetings with junta liaison Aung Kyi was the result of international pressure on the junta following its brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations last September in the country where, according to the United Nations, at least 31 people were killed. The two have met five times, the last time in December.

The pro-democracy leader’s tone has changed recently. In November she had characterized her meetings with the military regime’s representative as constructive.

“No one can misinterpret what she has said, least of all countries like China, India, Japan and Burma’s neighbors in Southeast Asia,” said Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN, a regional human rights lobby campaigning for change in Burma. “These Asian countries were prepared to give the junta a chance for change after the crackdown and were willing to be more conciliatory than Western governments.”

But now, Suu Kyi has exposed the game the junta is trying to play by “offering very little substance in the talks, yet trying to drag it on to give the appearance that they are serious about the negotiations,” Stothard said from her Bangkok, Thailand, headquarters.

“It is a very courageous move by Aung San Suu Kyi to speak her mind this week, for she risks more years of solitary confinement and being cut off from meetings with her party.”

Massive street demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in August and September brought tremendous international pressure on military rulers in Burma, known officially now as Myanmar, forcing them to sit down with Suu Kyi.

National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008

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