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US and EU should pressure more on Burma

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The withdrawal of the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party from
an election wished-for this year has added to the awareness that the votes would
bring no change to Burma's political setting, other than a magic show of the
generals who aim changing into civilian clothes to maintain power.

The
withdrawal decision is in line with a statement made by the NLD's leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, who said last week that she would "not even consider" the elections
after unreasonable laws were released that forbid her from participating and
call for her expulsion from the party if it is to run.

Burma has been
under military dictatorships since 1962. The last polls in 1990 were won
significantly by the NLD, which secured 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats
and more than 60 per cent of the popular vote against more than 93 contesting
parties.

As the NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, it has
been regarding as the figurehead of Burma's democracy movement for more than 20
years. Consequently, as the NLD constantly refuses to bow to the junta's unjust
election "laws," it will be closed down by the junta soon. According to U Win
Tin, one of the founding members of the party, the NLD will not disappear. It
will be along with the people, in the midst of the people. NLD will keep up
struggle for democracy, human rights and equality among all ethnic
nationalities, by peaceful means.

Burma has been passing through a
critical historical point in time. Since October, 2001, the secret talk has been
proceeding between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, General-Secretary of the NLD and State
Peace and Development Council. People welcome this procedure with the view that
the root cause of all problems in Burma, economic crisis, systematic human
rights violations, humanitarian crisis, drugs trade, human trafficking, child
soldier issue, forced-labor problem, armed conflict, is political in nature and
it is believed that those issues can be resolved politically only through
dialogue, negotiation and compromise. The NLD and its ethnic alliance parties
fully support the principle, reaffirmed by consecutive UN resolutions that
dialogue between SPDC, NLD led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of ethnic
groups is the best modus operandi for early restoration of democracy and
national reconciliation Burma.

If we look back to contemporary Burmese
history, it can be found that the Burmese military has in the past altered when
there was a crisis and their survival was in jeopardy. It transformed the 1962
Revolutionary Council to the Socialist Regime based on 1974 Constitution. In
1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) abandoned "socialism"
and adopted "market economy" with the hope to replace foreign aid with foreign
investment. Then the SLORC started restructuring itself into the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) on November 15, 1997. In last quarter of 2000, the
State Peace and Development Council again changed tactics from confrontation to
engagement.


No noteworthy political harmony
reached

However, the SPDC or the junta just like before seemed to be
taking the path of half-hearted reform with minimum conciliation. Even though
the secret talks commenced in October 2000, no noteworthy political harmony has
been reached. The demand made by Aung San Suu Kyi for the release of all
political prisoners essential for confidence-building between the two parties,
is being responded at a sluggish speed. The regime has not committed to finding
a solution to the crisis in Burma through dialogue, negotiation and compromise.
The then "secret talks" are designed to drop off the internal and international
pressure and give the military ruling time to consolidate its power base. The
aim is to retain its grip on power.

The talks have stalled on at least
two occasions while the SPDC's the late Foreign Minister, Win Aung has continued
to insist that every thing is in good shape. He kept to this line even when
Special envoy Razali's visit to Burma was postponed, and when Aung San Suu Kyi
refused to attend the official ceremony on Martyr's Day on 19 July 2001. Her
absence on that occasion was the most obvious indication that the talks were in
serious gridlock.

At that juncture, the exiled dissident groups believed
that the European Union can play a key role in helping not only to ensure that
the talks do not break down, but that the process does develop into a genuine
and substantial political dialogue. The SPDC only embarked on a dialogue
strategy in October 2000, after the strengthening of the EU Common Position in
April 2000 and the ILO decision in June 2000. Take lesson on this, it is
critical that the EU Common Position not be relaxed at any time soon before the
junta sit at dialogue table with the Lady.

People of Burma are looking
forward to the international community to stand with them. They hope not only
from European Union but also from governments around the globe to say publicly
that they do not take into account the regime's election and prearranged
outcome, and pressure the regime to make substantive and positive change for
Burma.

It should commence with the immediate release of all political
prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the termination of the regime's
military operations against ethnic minorities. The SPDC should negotiate with
Burma's existing democratic alliance, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic
representatives for a peaceful solution toward national reconciliation and
prosperous Burma.

Japan calls for "an open election"

The
government of Japan, one of Burma's largest donors, warned that Tokyo will not
expand economic aid to Burma as earlier proposed unless the junta ensures the
participation of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others in the country's
general election this year, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.

Okada
conveyed the stance to Burmese Ambassador to Japan U Hla Myint on March 26, and
also told reporters he would like to discuss the situation in Burma with his
counterparts on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministerial meeting in
Canada next week. Okada said he told the ambassador that Japan is hoping for "an
open election" that will allow anyone concerned and willing to
participate.

The United States and Australia denounced the ruling junta,
which cancelled the NLD's victory in last elections held in 1990, for pressing
the party into a narrow corner and undermining hope for change after decades of
military rule.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. He (more...)
 
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