Written by U Ne Oo on 2001-07-23

The noted absence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Martyr's Day Ceremony (19th July) has put an end to much heated debate about whether the secret political dialogue in Burma is genuine or is progressing well. Her absence is a clear signal that the one sided dialogue with junta is getting nowhere.


On drawing conclusion from the information I could gathered, the so-call secret dialogue is more likely to be a case of the junta one-sidedly persuading ASSK under a psychological pressure. Firstly, she has been place in an isolation from her NLD colleagues and outside supporters. We have also witnessed Mr. Aung San Oo, elder brother of Suu Kyi, had been demanding half-share of the house which Suu Kyi lives. Obviously, Suu Kyi has been put through under various methods of personal distraction and that of pressures. The fact ASSK was never allowed to speak to the public about dialogue has made clear to us that the so-call dialogue is a one-sided in nature.

Although I have much suspicion about this dialogue soon after its announcement, the earliest sign of trouble I could picked up was in April. The apparent sign of impasse in the dialogue came up during the UN Envoy Mr. Razali visit in early June, when the envoy left Rangoon rather strangely (news report enclosed). There has been token release of political prisoners -- to the delight of Amnesty International -- following the period of Mr Razali visit. However, the talk is clearly remains stalled.

Although I have had much suspicion of the talks in Rangoon, and be concerned about ways in which the talk been conducted, as a grassroots activists, I alone cannot do much to change the situation. As of early this year, there are some democratic governments as well as pro-democracy groups within our movement seem wishing to give a chance to the so-called secret dialogue. Hopefully, with the given signal from ASSK, all groups within our movement are now united in forming the view that it is time to stepped up pressure on the junta.


There have been two schools of thought on transition. One is which the junta should unconditionally surrender state power to the elected representatives of May 1990 general election. The other is to form a government of national unity with elected representatives, and draft a federal constitution with participation of ethnic minorities. The junta is likely to put pressure on Suu Kyi to exclude ethnic minority groups in any of the transitional plans.

The participation of ethnic minority groups and the request of transparency in dialogue have been made by leading pro-democracy organisations and ethnic resistance groups. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, under pressure, appears to be holding the line on this point in negotiation with junta. From many year of our experience with Suu Kyi, we can certainly trust that she will not disappoint us on this matter.


When looking back on the so-called secret dialogue since January this year, the only positive outcome has been the Burmese junta recognising Aung San Suu Kyi as the legitimate person to be negotiate with. In fact, the junta's political legitimacy now rest upon how well it gets along with ASSK. When Suu Kyi has send us a clear signal that things are not going well, we must not fail to put pressure on the junta.

With best regards, U Ne Oo

Burma regrets Suu Kyi snub of national ceremony .

(With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)

RANGOON, July 20 - Burma's military junta said on Friday the nation regretted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's absence at a national ceremony commemorating the murder of her father -- a snub widely seen as a political statement.

Suu Kyi failed to show up at the official Martyrs' Day ceremony in Rangoon on Thursday, fuelling fears that landmark peace talks between the 56-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and the ruling generals are in trouble.

''The nation regrets her absence and the junta has nothing to say but to respect her decision,'' a junta spokesman said in a statement.

The junta made clear it was surprised that Suu Kyi had boycotted the event, which marks the 1947 assassination of her father, independence hero General Aung San, and eight other cabinet ministers. They were killed during Burma's transition to independence from Britain, when Suu Kyi was just two.

''The junta expected Aung San Suu Kyi to attend the Martyrs' Day ceremony,'' the junta said. ''In fact, upon the junta's invitation, Aung San Suu Kyi always attended this ceremony in recent years.''

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been holding regular secret meetings with Suu Kyi since October in a bid to break the political deadlock that has gripped the impoverished country for more than a decade.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.


No news on the progress of the talks has emerged, but the military has extended several olive branches since the start of the talks, releasing more than 150 detained NLD activists and allowing the party to reopen 18 of its branch offices.

''On account of the recent positive developments taking place between the SPDC junta and the NLD party, the junta believes that the road for better understanding and cooperation has been paved (and is) optimistically anticipating for the best,'' the junta statement said.

''In this regard, not only was the invitation officially extended but transportation as well as an escort officer was being arranged for her maximum convenience.''

Suu Kyi has been kept confined to her Rangoon residence since September, out of contact of even her closest aides. Only a handful of foreign diplomats have been allowed to see her.

Earlier this year, diplomatic sources said the talks appeared to have stalled, but subsequent prisoner releases and a visit by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who helped broker the dialogue, stirred hopes the negotiations were still on track.

But given Suu Kyi's inability to make public comments on the talks, her failure to attend the ceremony was seen by many diplomats as a signal to the outside world that despite the junta's olive branches, the two sides remain far apart.

Tuesday June 5, 7:29 PM

Myanmar dissidents demand 'failed' talks be exposed to scrutiny

BANGKOK, June 5 (AFP) - Secret talks between democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military regime have failed to make any head way and should now be opened to public scrutiny, a Myanmar dissident group Tuesday.

"The progress over the last eight months of dialogue has been virtually non-existent," the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) said in a statement.

The Thailand-based activist group called on the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the ruling State Peace and Development Councilto reveal details of the contacts which began last October.

"We ask the NLD and SPDC to open up the talks so the people of Burma and the world can see if there is progress" said spokesman Sonny Mahinder.

"The current talks are not open. People are frustrated waiting for information while human rights abuses and forced labour are still occurring inside the country."

The ABSDF accused the military regime of staging religious and racial riots which have broken out in recent weeks to "distract people's attention from current political and economic problems."

"The people of Burma should have access to information about the real progress of the talks," it said, urging foreign governments and rights organisations to maintain pressure on the SPDC.

UN envoy Razali Ismail ended a four-day mission to Myanmar on Monday where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi and top junta leaders in a bid to revive the reconciliation talks they embarked on last year.

The dialogue, the first between the two warring sides since 1994, initially raised hopes that 40 years of military rule might finally be coming to an end in Myanmar.

But in the last few months the contacts appear to have hit a road block, as elements within the junta baulked at the prospect of introducing democratic reforms.

The government's decision to allow Razali to visit last week, after a worryingly long absence of five months, was hailed as a sign that the reconciliation process was back on track.

But eyebrows were raised again Monday when the Malaysian diplomat left Yangon without any of the prizes he was expected to be handed -- including the release of a batch of political prisoners and permission to release a statement on the direction and intent of the talks.

Instead, UN chief Kofi Annan later made a vaguely-worded statement which said only that the visit by his special envoy had been "timely" and that he hoped it would help reconcile the military rulers and opposition.

Dissident groups and the nation's many ethnic minorities, whose support will be crucial in any transition to democracy, have made increasingly loud calls for light to be shed on the secret dialogue.

"It's difficult for everyone else to have the patience and forbearance to deal with this situation when we don't have a great deal of information to go on," said one diplomat in Yangon after Razali's departure.

"The mood here is one that we have to be very patient and we have a long way to go," he added.

Burma Political Dialogue in Tatters -- Analysis