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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Burma's Suu Kyi attacks junta

By Larry Jagan
BBC Burma analyst

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has severely criticised the military junta for refusing to start serious political talks.

She was also critical of the government's recent statements that it was committed to the dialogue process, and challenged the military leaders to match their words with deeds.

This is the opposition leader's strongest attack on the military regime since she was released from house arrest a year ago.

Diplomats believe it reflects the fact that the dialogue process is in real trouble.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been publicly offering to co-operate with the army ever since she was released.

1945: Born Burma, daughter of national leader General Aung San
1947: General Aung San assassinated
1967: Graduates from Oxford University
1988: Returns to Burma and becomes leader of National League for Democracy (NLD)
1989: Placed under house arrest by military junta
1990: NLD wins landslide in general election; military junta refuses to recognise the result
1991: Awarded Nobel peace prize
1995: Released from house arrest but movements severely restricted
2003: Taken into "protective custody" amid clashes between NLD and military authorities

But in the past six months there has been no real contact between the two sides.

So it is no wonder that she should be irritated by the generals' insistence that the dialogue process was making progress.

At issue is the most recent statement by the Burmese military spokesman, which said the government welcomed meaningful and constructive engagement - or dialogue - with all Burmese citizens irrespective of ethnic origins, religious beliefs or political affiliations.

Although this offer was clearly directed at the NLD leader, it was very similar to the military intelligence's previous offer of dialogue to the US.

The government spokesman, Colonel Hla Min, says these are general, open invitations to dialogue.

"This is an open invitation to whoever comes to Myanmar (Burma) with an open mind and sincerity and would like to have a constructive dialogue with the people of Myanmar - they are always welcome. Because, for us, co-operation is better than confrontation," he said.

The problem though - as both Aung San Suu Kyi and the US government have pointed out - is that these offers are never issued directly or formally, but instead made through the foreign media.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last year

While these offers have been dismissed as a publicity stunt, diplomats believe they also reflect a growing division within the army and the government about the dialogue process.

There are many who now realise that only change, including political reform, can guarantee a central role for the army in a future Burma.

Diplomats believe these officers and government officials are in favour of talking with Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the top leader, Senior General Than Shwe, remains intransigent and refuses to allow direct talks to start.

There are increasing incidents, like the press statements on dialogue and the bugging of a UN envoy's interviews with political prisoners, which reflect these growing tensions within the army and military intelligence about the need for political reform.

The problem is that these reformers seem helpless to influence the man who makes all the decisions.

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