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Yomiuri -Myanmar junta must seek di

Myanmar junta must seek dialogue 
Yomiuri Shimbun

Asia, it is said, is a community of diverse nations. But none is perhaps
stranger than Myanmar, which has a habit of retreating into its shell
whenever an adverse wind is blowing. 

The actions and words of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi are again
attracting major attention, so the eyes of the world have turned once again
on a country ruled by a junta that persists in pursuing an isolationist

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and the junta's State Peace and
Development Council appear to be intensifying their confrontation as major
changes take place in and outside Myanmar. 

The 10th anniversary of the crushing of the pro-democracy movement by the
junta will be observed next month. 

Myanmar is also struggling through mounting economic problems, particularly
because of a steep decline in investment from other crisis-stricken Asian

The declining value of the nation's currency and soaring inflation are
playing havoc with the livelihood of the Myanmar people. 

Clear message from ASEAN 

For the junta, the most serious event was the collapse of Indonesian
President Suharto's government, which the junta regarded as a model
autocratic government capable of carrying out national development. In
addition, its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have
shown signs that they favor changes in policy after the Suharto
government's collapse. 

At the ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting late last month, the ministers
considered whether the organization should review its principle of not
interfering in each other's domestic affairs. Thailand and other nations
proposed that the members exchange opinions about issues standing in the
way of the region's prosperity. A decision on the proposal was not made at
the meeting, but the message was clear to Myanmar. 

At a time when the United States and the European Union have turned a sharp
eye on the junta, ASEAN's message is that it will no longer deflect
international criticism against Myanmar. 

Taking advantage of this situation, pro-democracy forces are intensifying
their confrontation with the Myanmar junta. 

Suu Kyi protests attract attention 

Suu Kyi spent six days in a car--some of the time while the ASEAN meeting
was under way--in a standoff to protest the junta's efforts to block her
from traveling outside of the capital. She carried out a similar standoff
later for the same reason but this was also blocked by the junta. Her
actions obviously were aimed at attracting international attention to the
junta's oppression. 

At the time of her first standoff in a car, the foreign ministers of Japan,
the United States and other nations attending the ASEAN meeting criticized
the junta, saying Suu Kyi should be granted the freedom to travel as she
was released from house arrest in 1995. Who can argue with that? 

But the dialogue that Suu Kyi is seeking with the junta is still up in the
air, frustrating the aspirations of pro-democracy forces. 

The NLD has demanded that parliament be convened by Aug. 21 on the basis of
the results of the 1990 general election, which the party won by a
landslide. The junta will almost certainly ignore this demand. 

In reaction, democratic forces are expected to launch an offensive to mark
the 10th anniversary of the crushing of pro-democracy movement in 1988. If
the protest becomes massive, the junta will probably meet it with an iron
fist, shrug off international public opinion and then retreat into its

The junta must realize that this isolationist path is not the answer. Only
a dialogue with the democratic camp provides a solution for the country's

(From Aug. 16 Yomiuri Shimbun)