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Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 01:46 GMT 02:46 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Burma's opposition shows split

Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire from her own party

By South East Asia Correspondent Simon Ingram

There are signs of dissent within the ranks of Burma's main opposition party amid continuing political stalemate.

Last month parliamentary members of the National League for Democracy issued a statement calling for renewed attempts to begin dialogue with the military government. They were implicitly critical of the strategy adopted by the internationally respected party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Now the NLD has issued a sharply worded riposte, accusing the party critics of being lackeys of the military.

The letter, signed by 25 NLD MPs, is an unusually forthright indictment of the party's recent political strategy and, implicitly at least, an attack on Miss Suu Kyi.

It was Miss Suu Kyi, who, last year, sought to raise the stakes in the NLD's long-running confrontation with the military government by demanding the convening of the parliament elected in 1990 - an election the military never recognised.

According to the letter, her call backfired disastrously, encouraging the government to begin the systematic dismantling of the NLD leadership, detaining hundreds of people and forcing many to resign their party membership.

'Lackeys' of the military

At least one of the signatories, Than Tun, has voiced criticism of the NLD leadership before. His outburst this time has brought a fierce response. A statement issued by the NLD leadership singled out Than Tun and two other signatories, all three of whom were temporarily detained by the authorities, denouncing them as lackeys of Burmese military intelligence. It accused them of attempting to sow disunity within NLD ranks.

The call for dialogue with the regime is not new. In an interview last week Miss Suu Kyi herself predicted an eventual return to the negotiating table. The sticking-point has been her personal participation - something the regime adamantly opposes. In the long months of stalemate, other criticism of her stand has been heard, not least from foreign investors and some Western diplomats.

But although this outburst is likely to be seized on by the military, there is little suggestion that her standing at the head of the party is under serious challenge.

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