Myanmar's ruling junta said yesterday it had arrested 12 people who were plotting to assassinate five members of the regime as part of a campaign to create civil unrest and seize power.
It also unleashed new criticism on Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, blaming her for the country's lack of democracy and further hardening its stance on her incarceration.
"Twelve saboteurs sent in by terrorist and dissident groups outside the country to assassinate State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) members and to create civil unrest all over the country were uncovered by military intelligence and arrested with numerous explosives on July 17," Colonel San Pwint told reporters.
Deputy military intelligence chief Major General Kyaw Win said the groups had intended to mobilize monks, students and opposition parties in a military and political campaign to rise up against the ruling SPDC.
He said the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Suu Kyi could have been involved in the campaign which began in late 2002.
"We are continuing our investigations to try to find out if the NLD is implicated in this campaign of civil unrest," he said. "Only Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders themselves will know whether they are implicated or not."
"We are only in the first stage of our investigations involving the people who were sent in," said Kyaw Win, allegedly one of those targeted with assassination.
Soe Pwint said the plot was timed to coincide with Martyrs Day on July 19, an important day on Myanmar's political calendar to mark the anniversary of the assassination of independence hero General Aung San.
The alleged plotters had inspected the Yangon residences of five junta members which were to be bombed in the assassination bid, he said, without revealing the names of the other four targeted.
Suu Kyi has been held under detention since May 30 when her supporters were ambushed by a pro-junta mob during a political tour of northern Myanmar.
Myanmar has no parliamentary democracy because Suu Kyi's opposition NLD party withdrew from a constitution-drafting process in 1995, the junta said in a commentary in state-run newspapers.
If the NLD had cooperated with the government "and drafted the constitution, the parliamentary administrative system would have actually come into being," the commentary said.
The country's military rulers frequently heap blame on Suu Kyi and the NLD in an apparent effort to deflect criticism of their own actions.
Myanmar's military leaders have remained defiant in the face of intense pressure from the West, the UN and even some of its closest friends in Southeast Asia to free Suu Kyi, who has been held incommunicado since her arrest.
The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, plans to send a delegation soon to try to end the deadlock.
Myanmar has not had a constitution since 1988, when the current military government took power and nullified the former socialist constitution.
The junta called elections in 1990, but refused to give up power when the NLD won. A national convention to draw up guidelines for a new constitution began in 1993, but the NLD rejected it as undemocratic. It withdrew from the process in November 1995.
Suu Kyi's detention has frozen reconciliation talks that started in October 2000 between the junta and opposition. The talks had been widely viewed as making scant progress.