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WASHINGTON--Burma's newly freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told Radio Free Asia (RFA) her party is moving "step by step, with a lot of patience" in a bid to avoid prolonging a political stalemate that began more than a decade ago. In an interview with RFA's Burmese service, Aung San Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy (NLD) would remain deliberate in its dealings with the junta, which released the Nobel peace laureate May 6 from 19 months under house arrest. Asked if the junta might simply ignore an eventual NLD victory at the polls, as it did in 1990, she replied: "We are going step by step, with a lot of patience, so as to avoid the problems of the past-which could occur if we jump ahead and advance too quickly." Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated that the NLD would continue to work toward the release of all political prisoners in Burma, although "it is not the practice of the NLD to disclose how it will go about getting political prisoners released." She also called for Burma's minority ethnic groups to be included in reconciliation talks that began in October 2000 between herself and the junta, brokered by special U.N. envoy Razali Ismail. "Our NLD believes that without the participation of the ethnic nationalities it is not possible to really resolve the political problems of Burma," she said. "It is not possible to know exactly when or under what conditions they can participate." "We believe the ethnic nationalities know we are sincere towards them, and we are very thankful to them for their trust in us and the support they give us," she said. Five pro-democracy ethnic groups within Myanmar--representing the Shan, Mon, Chin, Karen, and Arakanese minorities--called in a statement this week for inclusion in the talks. Ethnic political aspirations have long been a thorny issue in Burma. Several of Burma's minority groups have kept up armed struggles against the military rulers who have governed the country since 1962, when a coup led by General Ne Win overthrew an elected civilian government. Others have sporadically maintained ceasefires with government forces. The NLD won 1990 general elections by a landslide, but the junta, which took power after crushing a nationwide pro-democracy movement in 1989, simply ignored the results. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was first placed under house arrest from 1989-95. The junta placed her under house arrest again in September 2000, after she tried to leave the Burmese capital, Rangoon, on party business. Asked about the extent of her freedom since May 6, she replied: "I have been able to move about freely. I have been able to see anybody I wish to see without any harassment or problems. I believe that when I visit the NLD township offices later there will be no problems as well." "The NLD as well as myself vow to work to the best of our abilities to achieve democracy as quickly as possible, and we would like to request that the people help and support us," she said in a message to Burma's roughly 50 million people. "How they can do this will depend on how they perceive of themselves. They will find the answer if they really want to help us." In its 2001 report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department described Burma's record in that area as "extremely poor." It also noted that the ruling junta continues to discriminate systematically against ethnic minorities. Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming 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-giving them a voice as well as a means of connecting with the world and with one another. Created by the U.S. 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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