No Roadmap Without Dialogue: Opposition Leaders

National League for Democracy (NLD) central executive member Win Tin and Arakanese leader Aye Thar Aung reaffirmed in a Burmese language letter to a conference being held by Burmese exiles in Tokyo this week that the roadmap to breaking Burma’s political deadlock lies in the release of political prisoners, a review of the 2008 Constitution and genuine political dialogue.

Aye Thar Aung wrote that the 2010 election under the 2008 Constitution will not bring democracy and ethnic rights to Burma.

Genuine dialogue between the military junta, ethnic leaders and NLD leaders has to take place before the election, he said. He called the 2008 Constitution “one-sided” and said both cease-fire and non-cease-fire ethnic groups have rejected it.

Win Tin added that releasing pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and having international observers monitoring the election are keys to making progress in the political crisis. The NLD leader reaffirmed that if the junta followed these conditions and acknowledged the result of the 1990 election, the NLD would participate in the election next year.

Both Win Tin and Aye Thar Aung warned the 2008 Constitution and the proposed 2010 election will threaten peace and stability if the junta proceeds with its plans without agreement from other parties.

Their comments have revealed nothing new since they were based on similar declarations made by the NLD at Shwegonedaing in April.

Many Burmese people as well as Burma observers agree that genuine dialogue between all stakeholders in Burmese politics offers the best path to resolution of the political situation in Burma. However, no genuine dialogue has taken place inside the country in more than 20 years.

Under the leadership of Suu Kyi, the NLD called for dialogue with the military junta shortly after the party was formed on September 27, 1988. The junta did not respond.

In the early 2000s, there were some meetings and dinners attended by leaders including Suu Kyi and Snr-Gen Than Shwe, but observers said the meetings were for show only and resulted in increased tensions rather than greater dialogue.

Following international condemnation of the junta over crackdowns on mass demonstrations in September 2007, the junta appointed Labor Minister Aung Kyi to hold meetings with Suu Kyi.

The two met a few times between October 2007 and January 2008 but then the meetings stopped.

The meetings only resumed in October after Suu Kyi sent a letter to Naypyidaw requesting permission to meet with Western diplomats to learn about the condition of sanctions on Burma.

On Nov. 11, Suu Kyi sent another letter to the junta requesting a meeting with Than Shwe, but the junta chief has yet to reply.

Many in Burma and abroad are optimistic that something positive will happen in the coming months ahead of the 2010 election. Given lessons from the past and recent events, however, others are skeptical that progress will be made.

Writing about positive change in Burma in Britain’s Guardian news blog on Wednesday, British ambassador Andrew Heyn said: “the optimism is offset by fears that this might be a repeat of the window dressing, so often seen before, that is designed to obscure the reality of a regime conducting business as usual… Burma has seen many false dawns and no one is getting too excited.”

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