Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Breakthrough in Suu Kyi's Talks with Junta


Today's Agence France Presse's story HERE:

The Myanmar junta’s talks with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi were no more than a bid to deflect criticism of its bloody crackdown on protesters before top UN envoys visit, analysts say.

The Nobel peace prize winner on Thursday was briefly allowed out of her home, where she has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, to meet with Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who was named to build ties with the opposition.

Although no details of the hour-long talk have been released, images of the meeting were broadcast on state television, a rarity in a country where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent years out of the public eye.

“It was significant in a sense that at least the military and Aung San Suu Kyi held talks,” Chaichoke Chulsiriwong, an expert on Myanmar at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told AFP on Friday.

“But we have to remain cautious,” he added.

The junta rarely has direct dealings with Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections but was never allowed to govern.

In appointing Aung Kyi, viewed as a moderate in the junta, the ruling generals seemed to indicate the military was prepared for at least a minimal level of contact.

“But we can never trust this military government. … The ruling generals will do everything to ease international pressure, which is very strong after the crackdown,” Chaichoke said.

At least 13 people were killed and more than 2,100 people locked up by security forces that suppressed the September protests — the biggest challenge to military rule in nearly two decades — with bullets, baton charges and tear gas.

The junta has been widely condemned for its actions, and needs to be seen as taking steps ahead of next week’s expected visit by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, said Thailand-based Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo.

“It was very clear — the junta had no choice but to hold talks with Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

“The government felt it had to do something positive in order to defuse international pressure.”

Gambari, who is making his second trip to Myanmar since the unrest began, will be followed by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights.

Speaking from Japan where he met top leaders on the Myanmar issue, Gambari said the Thursday meeting was “only the first step” in what he hoped would be a resumed dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.

Others, though, were not so optimistic.

“The regime has no will to make any concessions, despite pressure from the international community,” said one western diplomat with extensive experience dealing with the junta. “There is no change in their attitude.”

The meeting, however, could have been an attempt to dictate what Aung San Suu Kyi can say to the UN envoys, whom she is likely to meet, said Debbie Stothard of Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, a human rights group.

The regime was “trying to set limits on what she says and does,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has staunchly refused to drop her support for international sanctions on the regime, a condition set by junta leader General Than Shwe for further talks toward national reconciliation.

Knowing she is not likely to change her stance could give the generals an excuse to abandon future talks, said Yoshihiro Nakanishi, a Myanmar expert from Japan’s Kyoto University, where detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi studied during the 1980s.

“If talks do not materialize, the military government can easily blame Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.