Suu Kyi Sends Letter on Sanctions to Than Shwe

By SAW YAN NAING Monday, September 28, 2009

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has sent a letter to junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe seeking permission to meet Western and Australian ambassadors to Burma to discuss a possible end to sanctions.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by The Irrawaddy on Monday, Suu Kyi said she wants to cooperate with the Burmese regime to achieve an end to sanctions by the United States and other Western countries. She told Than Shwe she wanted to hear the opinions of these countries through their ambassadors based in Burma.

Suu Kyi also requested a meeting with senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) in order to negotiate an agreement for an end to sanctions.

Suu Kyi’s letter comes two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced plans for a major US policy shift that will include engaging with Burma’s military junta as part of an effort to promote political reform in the country. Suu Kyi also has welcomed the US move.

The US has traditionally been Burma’s strongest critic, applying political and economic sanctions against the junta. But President Barack Obama’s administration says it is reviewing US policy toward the Burmese junta, which welcomed visiting US Senator Jim Webb at an unprecedented meeting with Than Shwe last month. 

Bertil Lintner, a Swedish journalist who has written several books on Burma, commented on the latest development: “It seems to me that Burma’s close relations with China, not the lack of democracy, is the US’s main concern.” 

Since the “war on terror” was launched in 2001, the US has neglected to counter the spread of China’s influence globally, according to Lintner.

“Now, in the eleventh hour, it’s waking up, so it has begun to ‘engage’ regimes such as the one in Burma. At the same time, however, the US cannot ignore its stated commitment to democracy.

“This is going to be a severe dilemma when Washington wakes up to the fact that the Burmese junta has no intention to move towards any kind of real democracy.”

Meanwhile, the NLD released a statement on Sunday demanding the reopening of the functions of its political campaigns, which have been banned by the regime for the last six years. The ban was unlawful, the NLD said. 

The NLD call came on the 21st anniversary of the party on Sunday. More than 200 NLD members and diplomat guests celebrated the occasion at the party headquarters in Rangoon.      

Despite being an official political party, the NLD has faced continual regime harassment and the arrest and imprisonment of several key members, NLD chairman Aung Shwe said.

UN Urges Asean to Get Tougher on Burma

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a ministerial meeting of Southeast Asian nations late Saturday to take a tougher line with fellow member BUrma in hopes its military junta will free political prisoners and hold fair elections.

Ban said it is in the best interest of the rest of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to lean on Burma to free political prisoners, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, since leading a pro-democracy uprising that was crushed by Burmese military junta.

Asean members generally refrain from criticizing one another, however.

“Our collective interest is to find ways to encourage Myanmar [Burma] to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, start a genuine political dialogue and create conditions conducive to credible elections,” Ban said.

Last week, Burma’s ruling junta released at least 25 political detainees as part of an amnesty, but that figure was believed to be only about 1 percent of all political inmates being held. Authorities want the former prisoners to participate in next year’s vote.

Ban called the amnesty “a step in the right direction (that) falls short of expectations” and said next year’s election has to be credible.

“Next year will be critical,” he said.

“The first planned election in two decades must be held in an inclusive and credible manner if they are to advance stability, democracy, reconciliation, national development and respect for human rights.”Burma’s Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein is scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly’s ministerial meeting on Monday, the highest-ranking junta official to do so in 14 years.

“Myanmar has an opportunity to demonstrate to its people and to the international community its clear commitment to an inclusive political transition,” Ban said. “It is an opportunity Myanmar should not miss.”

“Asean countries have an important role to play in this effort — first and foremost to ensure the well-being of the people of Myanmar, but also in the wider interest of peace and security in the region,” he said.

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