Burma's Generals Insecure

In her third week of freedom, a Burmese democracy icon calls for dialogue to promote a sense of 'security.'
2010-11-29
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Aung San Suu Kyi talks to relatives of political prisoners in Rangoon, Nov. 29, 2010.
Aung San Suu Kyi talks to relatives of political prisoners in Rangoon, Nov. 29, 2010.
AFP

The people of Burma, including the country's ruling generals, will feel "safe and secure" through a dialogue process, says opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

She hinted that the generals were feeling insecure.

The Nobel laureate was replying to a question during "The People and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," a weekly program launched by Radio Free Asia's Burmese service on Nov. 26.

A U.S.-based Burmese monk had asked her how Burmese citizens could shed their fear of the generals and how the generals could rid their own fear of losing power.

"People have fears because they feel insecure," Aung San Suu Kyi said, speaking on her third week of freedom from more than seven years of continuous house arrest.

"For me, I wish people in our country to feel secure—not only the generals, but the people as a whole should feel they are safe here," the 65-year-old pro-democracy leader said.

"We have to work hand-in-hand to achieve this," she said. "We have to discuss this together to get there—for everybody to feel secure."

On whether the military junta was any different today than in the past and whether she might be re-arrested, Aung San Suu Kyi said she had "not noticed any significant changes" so far.

"I cannot say they will just re-arrest me tomorrow, but on the other hand I cannot guarantee that I will not be re-arrested."

"There is not yet security for me or for anybody else in Burma today, and that is what I think we should like to talk about with those who are in power."

National reconciliation

Aung San Suu Kyi had called for a dialogue with Burma's military rulers immediately after her release, saying it was key to bringing about national reconciliation.

But any dialogue, observers say, may have to wait for the new parliament to be officially constituted in the year following Nov. 7 elections, which opposition leaders, rights groups and Western powers had called a sham because of alleged irregularities.

The junta's political proxy has claimed an overwhelming victory in the country's first election in two decades amid opposition protests that there was cheating and voter intimidation.

The elections were held with Aung San Suu Kyi in detention and her party disbanded for refusing to take part in a vote it said was unfair. Aung San Suu Kyi had urged supporters to boycott the poll.

Aung San Suu Kyi answered various other questions during the RFA program, including the possibility of her calling for an end to economic sanctions imposed on Burma by mostly Western powers in response to what they consider the junta's repressive rule.

She was cautious in her response, saying a study was needed before any decision on sanctions was taken to "improve the situation."

"We have constantly reviewed opposition with regards to sanctions, and we are going to see whether there is anything we can do to improve the situation," Aung San Suu Kyi said.

"That is to say: Are there more effective kinds of sanctions? Are there sanctions which should be removed in the interest of the people?"

"These are questions that have to be answered after we have discussed these matters with all concerned—those who are against sanctions, those who are for sanctions, and those who have worked very hard to bring about sanctions as a way of helping the process of democracy in Burma."

'Softened' tone

Key officials of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party and experts in the country believe Aung San Suu Kyi had "softened her tone" following her release.

The generals too have displayed greater tolerance for day-to-day political activities.

"We are seeing more positive developments," said Tin Oo, a former general and NLD deputy chairman.
      
"Since Aung San Suu Kyi's release, based on her speeches and activities, she is highly focused on national reconciliation. I think the situation will be much better in the near future," he said.

Htwe Myint, a former Burmese diplomat and NLD founder, said Aung San Suu Kyi "has softened her tone but appeared more confident" and that the junta had reduced harassment of her supporters.

The junta had also allowed greater flexibility in her meetings with foreign diplomats.

At the weekend, Aung San Suu Kyi met for more than an hour with Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and his special envoy to Burma. He also met earlier with Burma's foreign minister.

This is Nambiar's first visit to Burma since taking over as special envoy from Ibrahim Gambari, who last traveled to the country in June 2009.

After talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, Nambiar also met with the NLD central executive committee members and leaders of various ethnic groups at her lakeside residence. Previously, such meetings were organized by the junta under a tight schedule and confined to a government guest house.

Suu Kyi told reporters that the meeting was "very valuable" but that "one meeting is not enough."

"I think we may need many and frequent meetings to sort out all the problems we are facing," she said.

Another "positive" gesture from the junta was reversing its own order to close down a shelter for HIV/AIDS patients.

The shelter with about 80 patients was handed an eviction notice with a Nov. 25 deadline the day after Aung San Suu Kyi visited the center, but junta officials decided to give a temporary reprieve, much to the relief of social workers.

Reported by Khin Maung Soe for Radio Free Asia's Burmese Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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