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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Analysis: Burma talks stalled
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi normally does attend the ceremony
By regional analyst Larry Jagan

The failure of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to attend the Martyr's Day ceremony commemorating the assassination of her father in 1947 is being seen as a clear sign that the dialogue process has stalled again.


Aung San Suu Kyi has clearly rebuffed the military authorities by not attending the Martyr's Day event

Secret talks between the military authorities and the opposition leader have been going on for more than seven months.

But the talks appear to have produced few concrete results, despite the release of more than 150 political prisoners since January.

Both Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Generals are anxious not to be seen as the side which ended this fragile dialogue process.

Snub

Aung San Suu Kyi has clearly rebuffed the military authorities by not attending the Martyr's Day event although she sent a senior party representative in her place.

Rangoon
Aung San Suu Kyi is rarely seen in public
At the official ceremony, U Lwin said he was representing Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy (NLD) on her instructions.

"It was her decision not to attend the ceremony," U Lwin told party members.

Opposition sources told the BBC that they believe she did not attend because the military authorities had not done enough to meet the minimum goodwill gestures she had requested in June through the UN envoy envoy for Burma, the Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail.

These include the release of political prisoners and the removal of restrictions on her and two other senior party leaders.

The military insist that they are working on building trust and have released many of the country's political prisoners. More than 50 have been released since the UN envoy's last visit to Burma at the beginning of June.

Key demand

Human rights groups estimate that there are still nearly 2,000 political prisoners still in Burmese jails.

But the opposition leader suggested to the military authorities that there are five categories of prisoners that should be released as soon as possible. According to diplomats in Rangoon, all of the top category - people being detained in government guesthouses without trial - have now been released.


So far the military have tried to take the maximum credit for the minimum concessions to the NLD

They believe there are some 200 political prisoners who fall into the other categories that the opposition leader wants released before the end of July.

The most crucial demand though is probably the removal of the restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi and two other members of the NLD central executive, Tin U and Aung Shwe. They have been held under virtual house arrest since last September when they tried to leave Rangoon by train to attend a party meeting in Mandalay.

A senior opposition source said he thought the opposition leader was not prepared to go to the ceremony unless she was unconditionally released from house arrest.

According to a Burmese Government source, the generals were surprised by Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to attend Thursday's ceremony, particularly as they had released 11 political prisoners day before, including Dr Aung Khin Zint who is seen as a key member of the NLD and close to the opposition leader and the writer Nway Nway San.

They will also see this as a clear message to the international community that the talks have stalled again. So far the military have tried to take the maximum credit for the minimum concessions to the NLD.

As one western diplomat told the BBC: "The Burmese military leaders will only do as much as is necessary to deflect international criticism of their intransigence. They want to drag the process out as long as possible."

The Burmese military will now have to prove that they are really committed to the process of confidence-building - something they have already privately assured the opposition leader and the international community.

Already a return visit by the UN envoy is being delayed. Rangoon has told Dr Razali that he cannot come before the end of August now - having originally promised to allow him to visit later this month.

Although no one believes the talks have irretrievably broken down, most analysts believe they have stalled again. This may also be because the talks are on the verge of entering new phase.

Only more concessions by the military can keep the talks from being derailed altogether.

See also:

19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's Suu Kyi stays away
19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Opposition prisoners freed in Burma
06 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma releases opposition MPs
28 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma frees more political prisoners
21 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma releases more political prisoners
04 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Burma visit brings hope
05 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN Burma envoy in Rangoon
10 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
What's behind the Burmese talks?
16 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma sanctions imminent
26 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma: 10 years on
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