Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suu Kyi tells Myanmar to "prepare for worst"

YANGON (Reuters) - Detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is frustrated at a lack of talks on political reform with the ruling military junta since last year's bloody crackdown on dissent, her party said on Wednesday.

After a rare meeting between the Nobel peace laureate and leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD), spokesman Nyan Win said Suu Kyi held out little hope that unprecedented international pressure on the generals would bear fruit.

"Let's hope for the best and prepare for the worst," he quoted her as saying, adding she worried that Wednesday's 90-minute meeting, and another immediately afterwards with junta liaison minister Aung Kyi, might give rise to "false hope".

Suu Kyi, who has been in prison or under house arrest for more than 12 of the last 18 years, also passed on details of her fourth and last encounter with Aung Kyi on January 11.

Nyan Win said she had told Aung Kyi, appointed as go-between after the September crackdown, that talks must include representatives of Myanmar's many ethnic groups, which have been struggling for autonomy or independence for five decades.

Suu Kyi also told her colleagues she feared she was being strung along by the junta, a group of generals who have turned promise-breaking into an art form, not least by ignoring their humiliating 1990 election defeat.

"She is not satisfied with meetings with Aung Kyi and with the lack of any time frame," Nyan Win said.

In another sign of junta intransigence, NLD number two Tin Oo, who like Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since May 2003, was barred from attending the meeting, held at a government guest house under heavy armed guard.

Ever since the crackdown, in which the United Nations says at least 31 people were killed, diplomats from Beijing to London to Washington have been pushing the junta to hold talks with Suu Kyi about moving towards civilian rule.

Despite admitting U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari twice, the generals have failed to embark on any sort of programme of negotiations, and human rights groups say they are continuing to arrest dissidents and democracy activists.

Police arrested a popular political blogger, Nay Phone Latt, at a Yangon Internet cafe on Tuesday, a local journalist who asked not to be named told Reuters.

The U.N.'s Gambari, who wanted to return to Myanmar before the end of 2007, is still waiting for a visa.

Suu Kyi and the NLD won an election landslide in 1990 but were denied power by the military, which has ruled in one form or another since a 1962 coup. During that time, the once-promising economy has collapsed.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun, additional reporting by Nikolas Lynn; Editing by Ed Cropley and Roger Crabb)