BURMESE DEMOCRACY LEADER URGES UNITY OVER FACTIONAL STRIFE


2003-03-07
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WASHINGTON, March 7--Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged her countrymen in an interview Friday with Radio Free Asia (RFA) to rise above their deepening political divisions and work together for political reform. She also dismissed the ruling junta's surprise invitation to the United States last month to join a dialogue on Burma's political future, saying the Burmese factions should begin by speaking to one another.

"What I want to say to all the Burmese is that we are weak in unity. There are too many jealousies," she told RFA's Burmese service. "We must give up those attitudes. We must all work for the benefit of the country. It does not mean we must not have self-interest. But we must not put self-interest in the forefront."

Aung San Suu Kyi insisted that her National League for Democracy (NLD) was ready and willing to negotiate on Burma's future with the junta that has ruled the country since 1988. She also renewed a call for continued international sanctions and urged aid donors to demand accountability from the military government. "Right now the real question is, Does the [ruling] State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) really have the will to have negotiations with us or not?" she asked.

Burma, once one of Asia's richest countries but now one of its poorest, "is in dire need of development. Therefore, our people both within and outside the country must focus on unity and have sincerity and develop a sense of camaraderie. I would like to see the people of Burma as people able to do the right things-as people who have the endurance to keep on doing the right things."

"What I have repeatedly said to the people is that they must be resolute. There is a lot of hope for our country, but to realize those hopes we must � struggle," she said. "Sitting and hoping will not achieve anything." The chasm between the NLD and the junta appears to be deepening. Last month, officials lambasted what they described as threats to national stability--while Aung San Suu Kyi complained that the country was suffering socially and economically because the junta has refused to open a meaningful exchange with its critics. But in a surprise move following hints that U.S. sanctions against Rangoon might be expanded, the SPDC in February invited the United States to enter a dialogue on the country's political future . The invitation, an abrupt about-face from Burma's longstanding rebuffs to any outside meddling, asked Washington "to join us in open, constructive dialogue toward humanitarian, economic, and political development." Aung San Suu Kyi, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, appeared lukewarm on that invitation, saying, "instead of inviting an external country to give advice, it would be better to start negotiations amongst ourselves." Aung San Suu Kyi was freed on May 6, 2002, from 19 months under house arrest. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 1990 general elections by a landslide. But the junta simply ignored the results and kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest from 1989-95. It put her under house arrest again in September 2000 after she tried to leave the Burmese capital, Rangoon, on party business.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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