Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

MYANMAR: Secret Talks and Political Paralysis

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

MYANMAR: Secret Talks and Political Paralysis

Article excerpt

Donald M. Seekins

On 10 December 1991, Alexander Aris accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of his mother, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest in Yangon. Two days short of ten years later, on 8 December 2001, Peace Prize laureates gathered at Norway's Parliament Building to commemorate the democracy leader who could not attend the function because she was again under house arrest.1

The year 1991 was a year of hopes disappointed. Daw Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), had won a landslide victory in the 27 May 1990 general election. It seemed that Myanmar's military government at the time, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), could not withstand the momentum of political change supported by the international community. After the passage of a decade, however, change has been minimal and the NLD has been crippled by the junta's repression. In 2001, more sober, cautious hopes rested on talks between Daw Suu Kyi and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the SLORC has been known since 1997.

When the talks were announced in January 2001, Myanmar expatriates and foreign observers were cautiously optimistic. The All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), a major dissident group based in Thailand, called them "the most positive sign we've seen since the general election held in 1990".2 However, as the year wore on, hope turned to scepticism. The secret nature of the talks and the lack of results indicated that neither side was in a position --- at least over the short term --- to make meaningful concessions. …

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