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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 10:57 GMT
Aung San Suu Kyi meets Burma general
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest
By the BBC's Burma analyst Larry Jagan in Bangkok

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has secretly met one of Burma's senior leaders.

According to diplomatic sources in Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi may even have met the country's head of state, General Than Shwe.

It appears to be the first meeting with a senior general for some time and is being seen as a sign that the dialogue process may be on the verge of a significant break-through.

The meeting has again raised hopes that she may be released from house arrest in the very near future - at least before the next visit of the United Nations envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, currently scheduled for early March.

The Burmese military government has been in secret talks with the opposition leader, who is under house arrest, for more than a year.

However in recent weeks there had been growing fears that the dialogue process had stalled again.

Significant meeting

Diplomats in the Burmese capital Rangoon are certain that Aung San Suu Kyi secretly met either General Than Shwe or Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt when she left her compound last week.

General Than Shwe
Aung San Suu Kyi may have met General Than Shwe
The opposition leader has seldom been permitted to leave her residence, although she has been allowed a string of visitors, since she was placed under house again 18 months ago.

Diplomats say it would have to have been a significant meeting for the opposition leader to come out of her home. She did not even attend the Martyr's Day ceremony last year which marks her father's assassination.

Despite more than a year of contact between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese military leaders - mainly through a military intelligence liaison officer - there have been few tangible results from the dialogue process, which has been brokered by Mr Razali.

More than 200 political prisoners have been released - but as international human rights groups point out, there are still more than 1,500 political prisoners in Burma's jails.

Many diplomats in Rangoon fear the generals have been dragging the process out with little intention of discussing real political reform.

Pace of change

The UN envoy though has been urging the military regime to step up the dialogue process. For this to happen, the two sides would have to start taking about substantive issues.

Burmese man in Japan at a sit-in and hunger strike to protest at the Burmese military
Activists around the world have been calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release
The main obstacle to that remains the pace of the release of political prisoners and the lifting of the restrictions on the opposition leader herself. Mr Razali has told the generals that Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest was a necessary pre-requisite for the dialogue process to progress.

As the talks between the two sides are being conducted in strict secrecy, it is impossible to know what was discussed at last week's meeting. But the issue of political prisoners must have been high on the agenda.

Aung San Suu Kyi has insisted all along that the remaining elected members of parliament would have to be freed before she would consider being released herself.

UN sources say Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals had been considering a proposal that would allow the opposition leader to be freed, but with some continued restrictions - at least temporarily.

See also:

28 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Bra company pulls out of Burma
11 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Aung San Suu Kyi urges caution
10 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's military 'supports democracy'
08 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Peace greats urge Suu Kyi release
07 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Free Aung San Suu Kyi'
05 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's slow road to reform
06 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma opposition denies 'power share'
27 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burmese opposition backs talks
19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Burma talks stalled
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