AUNG SAN SUU KYI MEETS JUNTA ENVOYS, COULD BE FREED BY MID-APRIL


2004.03.18
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WASHINGTON, March 18, 2004�Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health and has been meeting monthly with envoys sent by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. The Nobel laureate hopes to be released from house arrest as early as mid-April.

�Aung San Suu Kyi is willing to work with Khin Nyunt,� said Min Nyo, a Tokyo-based Burmese activist who met with U.N. special envoy Razali Ismael on Wednesday along with envoys from the Japanese Trade Union Confederation. �Razali also told us that Khin Nyunt�s representatives are meeting once a month with [Aung San Suu Kyi],� he told RFA�s Burmese service.

�He also said that any new political convention would be different from 1993,� when a tightly scripted and controlled convention, in which critics of the junta were barred from speaking, left Burma�s political landscape unchanged. Both Aung San Suu Kyi�s National League for Democracy (NLD) and Burma�s insurgent ethnic minorities have refused to attend any new convention along the same lines.

Razali said Khin Nyunt was considering Aung San Suu Kyi�s request to be freed from house arrest by the April 13-16 Burmese water festival, Min Nyo said, adding that junta chairman Than Shwe would likely make the final decision. �If everything fails�if Aung San Suu Kyi isn�t freed and the convention fails�then Razali said, the international community will not accept this, and neither will the United Nations,� Min Nyo said.

Razali met separately this month with Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and Aung San Suu Kyi, and he said afterward that both sides were willing to work with each other to break the political stalemate. Last August the junta announced a seven-point �roadmap� to democracy, which included a first step of launching a national convention aimed at drafting a new constitution this year.

Separately, Razali had asked to meet in Tokyo with Thant Zin Oo, whose father, NLD vice chairman Tin Oo, remains under house arrest in Burma. In an interview with RFA�s Burmese service, Thant Zin Oo denied reports that his father had been injured in the deadly May 30, 2003 melee that followed a junta-directed ambush of Aung San Suu Kyi�s convoy. Scores of people were killed in the clash, which led to Aung San Suu Kyi�s new house arrest order.

�Razali wanted to see me because he had met my father and he knew that I was in Tokyo and he wanted to talk to me about his meeting with my father,� Thant Zin Oo said. �My father�s health is very good�he wasn�t injured. Aung San Suu Kyi is also in good health, he added. �I asked him if Burma would ever have democracy, and he [Razali] replied, �Sooner or later it will happen, but it should happen as soon as possible.��

Tin Oo, who had been the last senior NLD figure jailed over the May clash had been languishing in Kale prison in remote northwestern Myanmar before he was brought back to Rangoon on Feb. 14. He is one of Aung San Suu Kyi�s chief lieutenants. Aside from Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo, top NLD officials still under confinement include party chairman Aung Shwe and secretary U Lwin.

Burma has been ruled by military junta since 1962. In 1988, a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests claimed many lives and made Aung San Suu Kyi an international celebrity. Her fight for democracy in Burma has been marked since then by numerous false starts and dashed hopes, and Aung San Suu Kyi herself has spent most of the last decade under house arrest.

On March 11, the U.N. special rapporteur on Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said the May 30 attack on Aung San Suu Kyi's entourage and the ensuing crackdown on the NLD �have been a setback for human rights� in Burma. Earlier progress �although encouraging was not sufficient,� he added.

�In order to reverse the regression, all those who have been in detention or under house arrest since May 30, 2003 should be immediately and unconditionally released,� Pinheiro said in the report. Freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders would allow them to participate in the early stages of the transition process laid out by the military rulers last year �and send a powerful signal that the (junta) is genuinely serious about democratic transition,� he added.

The report was based on Pinheiro's fact-finding mission to Burma in November 2003 and on information received until mid-December. #####

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