Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar junta, opposition inch closer to talks

PESSIMISM As the world watches developments in Myanmar, the Indonesian defense minister said the introduction of democracy could lead to 'another Iraq'

AP AND AFP , YANGON, MYANMAR, AND JAKARTA

Myanmar's junta and detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi appeared to be paving the way toward talks, as the two fiercely opposed sides took cautious, conciliatory steps to end a two-decade-long deadlock.

Suu Kyi's party said it was prepared to make "adjustments" for the sake of dialogue and the junta has appointed a relatively flexible Cabinet-level official to coordinate contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi, adding it had yet to hear from the junta.

Small groups of riot police yesterday patrolled key road junctions and sites where the most intense protests had erupted, including the Shwedagon pagoda and a junction near the downtown Sule pagoda.

But soldiers were not visible on the streets and Yangon seemed generally normal. Some rumors circulated that a small protest might be staged.

ARRESTS

Despite the conciliatory steps, reports of more arrests and one death, continued to emerge yesterday along with a drumbeat of attacks on Western powers and the international media, which the regime accuses of fomenting the recent uprising.

An activist group in Thailand said a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's party died while being interrogated in the central Myanmar region of Sagaing after he and five other colleagues were arrested on Sept. 26.

Authorities in recent days informed the family of Win Shwe, 42, that their son had died and his body had been cremated at the detention center, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an organization of former Myanmar political prisoners.

The group said at least five more people had been arrested in Yangon in the last two days. The reports could not be independently verified.

ACCUSATIONS

The state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper said 60,000 pro-government demonstrators had gathered on Tuesday in Paan to support the junta's own "roadmap to democracy" while denouncing the US and foreign radio stations.

"It is very important for people not to be misled by killers on the airways from some countries. A handful of internal destructive elements are to be exposed," Saw Nyunt Thaung, a department head at Paan University, was quoted as saying.

The National League for Democracy on Tuesday called for talks with the junta, but urged it not to set conditions for any meetings.

"The success of a dialogue is based on sincerity and the spirit of give and take," the party said in a statement, which was based on her past speeches.

"The will for achieving success is also crucial and there should not be any preconditions," it said.

In its first comment since the regime held up the prospect of talks, the party appeared to be trying to encourage negotiations without abandoning its platform.

The party emphasized past statements by the opposition, but also said it could make "adjustments" for the sake of dialogue.

`ANOTHER IRAQ'

Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said yesterday that Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition movement was not a credible alternative to the junta, warning that a rush to democracy could create "another Iraq."

Juwono Sudarsono said in an interview that early democracy in Myanmar, ruled by the military since 1962, would prompt a power struggle between its ethnic minorities.

"Instant democracy on the lines of Western democracy, that's not on the cards, that's not possible," Sudarsono said.

"It can even lead to another Iraq because if you have instant democracy in a state of confusion," he said.

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