Burma, the State of Myanmar

By David I. Steinberg | Go to book overview

Postscript

Since this book went to press in December 2000, the political state of Myanmar has remained in a military-woven shroud that, although there is new evidence that it may become partly opened, still obstructs a holistic view of the political economy and society. In the almost fourteen years since the coup of September 1988, political stasis has continued, yet there have been signs that some type of political accommodation is under serious consideration. It may not completely satisfy the aspirations of either the military junta or the opposition, but it could mollify the impasse that has been all too apparent for over a decade.

In January 2001 it was revealed that secret talks had been going on since October 2000 between members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and effective leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). There have been five trips to Yangon by the United Nations Secretary General’s special envoy, Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia, as recently as September 2000. These trips were supported by the visit in January 2001 of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, who is said to have encouraged the military to compromise with the opposition in some manner.

As of this writing, almost 200 political prisoners have been released in small batches, and some NLD local offices been allowed to reopen, giving credence to the view that this confidence-building measure, without which Daw Suu Kyi would lose credibility among her own supporters, is a prelude to more accommodations from both sides. Vitriolic attacks against the opposition and its leaders in the controlled press have been reduced.

The specific details of the talks have, however, been closely held by both sides, which has caused concern among many Burmese and other observers— and this concern has increased as the talks appear to continue without any pub-

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