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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Burma military 'seeks democracy'
Burmese demonstration
Burmese exiles in Delhi mark Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday
Burma's military government says it is still trying to build democracy in the country, but rules out any democratic model influenced by the West.

In a speech to military personnel on Sunday one of Burma's top military leaders, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, said Burma was striving to "follow the correct path of democratic system which is being practised by most countries".

But he said "the nation will not become a democratic one under the influence of others forcibly shaped by some Western nations."

Burma's Khin Nyunt: No Western-style democracy
In elections on 27 May 1990, the people of Burma - also known as Myanmar - overwhelmingly rejected decades of isolationist military rule.

But the military have never allowed the winners - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - to take power.

On Monday the NLD's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, marked her birthday by urging Burmese women to step up the struggle for democracy.

To have peace and unity in our country, women need to lead the way

Aung San Suu Kyi

In a bilingual video message released to mark both her birthday and Women of Burma Day, she said "the struggle for democracy is not slowing down - it is continuing strongly because of these women".

"I want our women to be more active and strong. If we all do what we can to get democracy, we will be able to quickly attain our goal. Our goal is to have security and peace for people of Burma," Aung San Suu Kyi said in her message.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi: Women in the vanguard

"To have peace and unity in our country, women need to lead the way. Women can work a lot more for understanding, unity and loving kindness amongst the ethnic people."

Last month the pro-democracy leader, who is also a Nobel laureate, marked the 10th anniversary of the nullified elections by demanding that the military hand over power.

Respect for tradition

In his speech Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt did not go into detail about the kind of democracy he wanted.

The general, whose speech was carried by official newspapers, said Burmese democracy should conform with the history of the nation and the people, its customs and character.

He said some unnamed big Western nations were interfering in Burma's internal affairs through various means, while "internal destructive elements" had been "undermining" the country's development for more than 10 years.

ILO move condemned

On Friday the Burmese Government said the country's return to democracy could be delayed by an International Labour Organisation (ILO) resolution aimed at halting forced labour, which is reportedly widespread in Burma.

The ILO, a UN agency with 174 member states, urged governments and international institutions to ensure they did not help Burma perpetuate the practice.

"Such arbitrary action could only impede the process of democratisation and would prolong rather than hasten the emergence of a democratic society," the Burmese Government said.

The NLD has rejected any proposal for a fresh ballot, saying the government must respect the results of the last multi-party elections.

In the run-up to the last month's election anniversary, the military authorities intensified their crackdown on dissent, warning the media and Buddhist clergy not to mark the anniversary.

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See also:

27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suu Kyi demands power handover
25 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma anniversary galvanises opposition
28 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burmese forced labour condemned
27 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma warns opponents
20 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma clamps down on web
08 Aug 98 | Burma
Special report: Burma
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