Burma. According to
Countryaah, the military junta seemed to begin to adopt a
softer attitude towards the opposition. In secret,
negotiations were held with the National League for
Democracy (NLD) opposition party and up to 200 NLD members
detained for several years were released.
Assessors noted that the releases were most often made in
connection with foreign visits, and Amnesty International,
among others, claimed that Burma still had between 1,500 and
2,000 political prisoners. The skeptics felt that the milder
tone was merely an attempt to break Burma's international
isolation for the most urgent financial reasons.
The trials, however, worked partially, despite opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi being detained.
The EU extended its financial sanctions until April 2002,
but at the same time expressed support for the political
dialogue and suggested that sanctions could be lifted if
clear progress is made. At the same time, the EU gave up its
opposition to Burma's participation in international
cooperation and approved Burma's participation in the
International Monetary Fund's debt relief program.
In November, two senior generals and five members of
government were dismissed. The dismissals were interpreted
as yet another attempt to strengthen B's international
reputation by fighting corruption and against people who
criticized the dialogue with the opposition.
An article in the new constitution of 1994 stated that
presidential candidates should have lived the previous 20
years in the country, could not be married to foreigners or
have children with foreign citizenship. The article was
obviously aimed at Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to an
Englishman and had lived outside the country for a number of
years. The military junta had a meeting with her in
September 1994 - for the first time after she was arrested.
However, no agreement was reached on the new constitution.
In July 1995, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her
house arrest and she called on the Council to Restore State
Law and Order (SLORC) for dialogue. It was rejected and the
council responded again by arresting dozens of dissidents
and by retaining the ban on political debate.
At the beginning of the year, a party affair in Manerplaw
was taken over by SLORC. The fall of Manerplaw was a serious
blow to the opposition, as the guerrilla base had also been
home to democratic activists and to several popular
organizations associated with the various guerrilla
organizations. In January 1996, the government secured a
secret agreement on Khun Sa's surrender. He was known as the
"king of opium" and the leader of the Chan
Larger crowds - sometimes up to 10,000 - met regularly in
May and June in front of Aung San Suu Kyi's house to express
their support for her. In June, the SLORC banned statements
directed at the government, threatening to completely ban
the activities of the NLD and arrest its members for illegal
association. In July, Amnesty criticized the government for
detaining hundreds of NLD members. In some cases, just to
watch videos with Aung San Suu Kyis talking in their private
The military was now seeking to exploit the weakening of
the NLD by convening monthly press conferences for the
national and international press, which SLORC had
characterized as tendentious until recently. In 1996, SLORC
sought to promote public construction and the real estate
market - the center for drug laundering money laundering.
Both state and foreign investment were thrown into this
The same year, the military junta ordered 250 NLD members
arrested for planning to celebrate the party's victory in
the 1990 elections. The regime also passed a law banning the
NLD's political meetings.
Still, thousands of Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters
continued to gather in front of her house. Furthermore, the
NLD succeeded in laying the foundations for a new
constitution, according to which the armed forces would not
be able to participate in government work. However, the
military junta refused to enter into a dialogue, demanding
that the military continue to play a prominent role in the
country's political life.
The arrests of NLD members continued in 1996, and the
government increasingly imposed restrictions on Aung San Suu
Kyi's activities until it banned her from using the phone.
SLORC was gradually subjected to increasing international
pressure - especially from the US and the EU - and in 1997
the junta made a number of concessions. In September, it
allowed the NLD to hold its first congress for seven years,
although only half of the 600 delegates were allowed to
participate. Amnesty International urged the UN to put
pressure on the regime to release 90 prisoners of conscience
and some 1,200 political prisoners.
In a bid for renewal, the junta disbanded at the end of
1997, and instead created the State Council for Peace and
Development (SPDC). In July of that year, the country joined
the Southeast Asian Countries Cooperative, ASEAN.
In early 1998, inflation rose significantly as a result
of the stock market crisis in Southeast Asia. At the same
time, the rice harvest was far less than anticipated. Rice
is the country's most important consumer product and export
In August 1998, the military launched a violent campaign
against Suu Kyi, which had been detained at a roadside check
when it tried for the fourth time to leave the capital to
meet with its supporters. The junta characterized Suu Kyi as
"the number one enemy of society". Government newspapers
announced that those who met her "will not live long".