Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Burmese Opposition Leaders Reject FM’s Comments

The Irrawaddy News

Opposition and ethnic leaders in Rangoon on Tuesday rejected suggestions that the Burmese regime might be open to calls for change after Foreign Minister Nyan Win, attending a regional ministerial meeting in Thailand, said that the junta was still considering a number of proposals from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

On Sunday, Nyan Win told his counterparts at the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket that the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners demanded by the UN chief during a recent visit to Burma had not been ruled out.

Nyan Win’s comments, apparently intended to deflect international criticism of the regime’s imprisonment of Suu Kyi on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest, were rejected out of hand by leading members of Burma’s political opposition.

Khin Maung Swe, the main spokesperson for the central information committee of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said the release of Suu Kyi was a matter of urgency. He said that genuine national reconciliation talks would be possible only if the regime released Suu Kyi and dropped the charges against her.

“Since Asean holds a constructive engagement policy among its member countries, it is up to them [Asean members] to engage Burma to solve the political conflict through negotiation,” said Khin Maung Swe.

Aye Thar Aung, the Rangoon-based chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy, also said that the release of all political prisoners in Burma was only the first step of the process of national reconciliation.

He added that the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), a gathering of high-ranking officials from 27 countries that will begin in Phuket tomorrow, was not likely to have much impact on the situation in Burma.

Thawng Kho Thang, a senior member of the Rangoon-based United Nationalities League for Democracy, said he did not expect the Burmese regime to respond constructively to the Ban’s proposals. He urged international and regional leaders attending the ARF to put more pressure on the junta.

“All members of Asean have to press the Burmese representatives to engage with them positively. They have to pressure the representatives politically and economically. Diplomacy alone does not work,” said Thawng Kho Thang.

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