Party calls for talks with junta
YANGON, Myanmar – The party of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi called Tuesday for talks with Myanmar’s military regime following a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters, but it urged the junta not to set conditions for any meetings.The junta’s top general offered earlier this week to meet with Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. But he said she must first renounce her calls for international sanctions against the regime, which has been widely condemned for crushing the protests last month.”The success of a dialogue is based on sincerity and the spirit of give and take,” Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy said in a statement, which was based on her past speeches. “The will for achieving success is also crucial and there should not be any preconditions.”In its first comment since the regime held up the prospect of talks, the party appeared to be trying to encourage negotiations without abandoning its platform. The party emphasized past statements by Suu Kyi, but also said it could make “adjustments” for the sake of dialogue.On Monday, state media said the regime had appointed Deputy Labor Minister Aung Kyi as the Cabinet’s “minister for relations” to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi. He is considered more open than top junta leaders, who are deeply insular and fiercely hostile toward Suu Kyi.The Southeast Asian country has been ruled by the military since 1962, and protests that broke out in August over a fuel price hike quickly ballooned into mass demonstrations calling for democracy when widely respected Buddhist monks began spearheading daily marches.Troops crushed the protests by shooting at demonstrators Sept. 26-27. The regime said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the toll at up to 200 and say thousands of people have been arrested.The brutal crackdown ignited outrage around the globe, and international demands have grown for the junta to release the 62-year-old Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years without trial.The government said last week that the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, was willing to meet personally with Suu Kyi if she met its conditions. Than Shwe has met with Suu Kyi only once, in 2002, and the talks quickly broke down.Although it named a liaison official to deal with Suu Kyi, the junta did not indicate when he might meet with her.The appointment of Aung Kyi, a retired major general, appeared to be a nod to the United Nations. The world body’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, suggested creating the Cabinet-level job during his visit to Myanmar last week, state media said.The U.S. mission to the United Nations circulated a draft statement late Tuesday that would have the Security Council strongly deplore “the violent repression by the government of Myanmar of peaceful demonstrations, including the use of force against religious figures and institutions.”The statement also urges the junta to stop all “repressive measures,” including the detention of protesters, and open a dialogue with the various political and ethnic groups.Western nations are trying to find a consensus position acceptable to China and Russia, which have blocked previous resolutions on the grounds that Myanmar’s political unrest is an internal matter and not a threat to security in its region.The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council appealed to junta Tuesday to allow a visit by the body’s Myanmar specialist, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who has been barred from the country since 2003.Romanian Ambassador Doru-Romulus Costea, who presides over the council, said it wants Pinheiro to go to Myanmar as soon as possible to assess the human rights situation.