BURMESE JUNTA MAKES NO PROMISES AHEAD OF ASEAN MEET


2003-10-06
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Prime minister says national conference is planned

Burma's new prime minister told RFA's Burmese service that the junta is "preparing" to convene a new National Assembly that will include the country's ethnic minorities. But Khin Nyunt, whose country is likely to dominate this week's ASEAN summit in Bali, gave no details and made no promises regarding Burma's worsening political stalemate.

ASEAN leaders�who are set to meet Oct. 7-8 and generally avoid commenting on each other's internal affairs�have called on the regime in Rangoon to release Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, moved from detention to house arrest after major surgery. Khin Nyunt last month unveiled a seven-point "roadmap" to democracy in the military-run state, which includes free and fair elections to be held under a new constitution. He has yet to unveil any specific plans.

Asked in Bali when the junta would convene a new National Assembly, Khin Nyunt replied: "We are preparing, preparing." On whether Burma's minority ethnic groups would be included, he said: "We are preparing so that everybody can participate."

Burma, which is due to assume the ASEAN chairmanship in 2006, has said it is willing to explain its internal situation to the ASEAN summit. But the junta is unlikely to experience a very rough ride. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said this week he would press Khin Nyunt to move toward democracy, if the issue came up. His Thai counterpart, Thaksin Shinawatra, declined to back sanctions on Burma, saying the Southeast Asian way was to persuade rather than dictate.

Malaysia said Burma's troubles shouldn't overshadow the summit's other business. "We have got lots of agenda to tackle and I am sure the leaders will focus on the agenda. It should not overwhelm the core reason for us to have the summit this time," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters.

U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail made a three-day visit to Burma last week, during which he held meetings with military leaders in Rangoon and Aung San Suu Kyi. But his trip�seen by the United Nations as a last window of opportunity�failed to win any assurances or re-start the reconciliation process launched in October 2000.

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested after a government-led ambush on her motorcade on May 30 in the north of the country, in which as many as 100 people died, and an unknown number of women were raped, according to eyewitness testimonies recorded for RFA's Burmese service.

Tin Oo and other senior opposition members remain in detention, and Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside home is still under tight security.

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