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Boston Globe on Albright Burma visi

Subject:       Boston Globe on Albright Burma visit

W H Y    A R E    T H E    B U R M E S E    S M I L I N G ?

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, September 20, 1995

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, being a 
native of Czechoslovakia, displays a sure sense of the proper way to 
converse with dictators. An example was her two- hour chat in Rangoon 
with Gen. Khin Nyunt, a capo of the ruling junta in Burma, the State Law 
and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC.

Telling a preposterous lie, of the sort common among tyrants wielding 
absolute power, Khin Nyunt assured Albright that SLORC has "broad 
popular support" and offered as proof of this fib the fact that "the 
Burmese people smile a lot."

Albright responded that it had been her experience "in a lifetime of 
studying repressive societies that dictators often delude themselves 
into believing they have popular support, but that people often smile 
not because they are happy, but because they are afraid."

In 1990, when Burmese were able to vote, they gave 80 percent of 
Parliament's seats to the  National League for Democracy, the party of 
Aung San Sun Kyi, who had been placed under house arrest in 1989.  The 
junta ignored the election and conducted a war against society that 
exceeded the excesses of China's Tiananmen Square.  The generals 
released Suu Kyi this summer because they know that the people despise 
them and that their only hope for stability lies in dialogue with her.

They were also compelled to yield to outside pressure because of an 
overwhelming foreign debt of $5.5 billion, debt service of $1 billion, 
and a U.S. veto on loans from the World Bank. Albright told SLORC it had 
to respect human rights and enter a political dialogue with Suu Kyi, who 
won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. But Washington also needs to insist on 
security guarantees for Suu Kyi and her fellow democrats; to back 
Albright's tough words with penalties such as an executive order against 
investment in Burma; and to press Japan not to resume development aid 
until Burma's elected government is restored.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could do its part by inviting 
Albright to testify about her chat with the Burmese Godfather.