Suu Kyi letter backs the end of sanctions on Burmese junta

Author: By Andrew Buncombe, Asia correspondent

In a letter addressed to senior general Than Shwe, Ms Suu Kyi has sought
permission to meet foreign ambassadors from those countries that have
imposed sanctions to better understand their reasons. She has also requested
to meet with her party officials to be updated on the effect of sanctions on
the Burmese people.

“In order to work effectively for having the sanctions on Myanmar lifted,
I need to understand the sanctions imposed on Myanmar, how much the country
has suffered … and the attitudes of the countries that imposed these
sanctions,” wrote the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD),
who has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

Previously the NLD has said the issue of sanctions was a matter for the
countries that have imposed them. Ms Suu Kyi also suggested several years
ago that it was “not the time” for tourists to visit the country.
But earlier this month, the Nobel laureate supported the decision by the
Obama administration to push for closer engagement with the junta, while
maintaining sanctions.

Speaking last night from Rangoon, Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman, confirmed the
offer to the regime represented a change in the leader’s position. “She
wants to lift the sanctions but she also wants to know about them,” he
said.

“She wants to know about the consequences of the sanctions and the
opinions of the countries that have imposed them. If she gets that
information she can help to lift the sanctions.”

Activists have long been divided on the issue of sanctions. Some groups, such
as the Burma Campaign UK, have adopted a firm line, arguing that sanctions ?
if properly imposed ? could be an effective form of pressure on the senior
members of the junta. Others have called for greater engagement with the
country and believe that positive change is more likely to result from
increasing trade and tourism. Many point out that with countries such as
China, India and Thailand ignoring a boycott, existing sanctions are
rendered worthless.

Ms Suu Kyi, who said in her letter that she had conveyed her desire to work
towards the end of sanctions when she spoke with special branch police
earlier this month, has asked to meet US, EU and Australian diplomats. These
countries have imposed a series of sanctions that include the freezing of
trade assets and a ban on travel by senior Burmese officials.

The British embassy in Rangoon said that efforts since the summer to arrange a
meeting with Ms Suu Kyi have “been met with silence”.

The letter: Suu Kyi’s price for co-operation

*Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to seek co-operation with the military junta is a
major policy shift.

It was spelled out in a letter to Burma’s military strongman, senior general
Than Shwe, which was made public by the executive committee of the party she
leads, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

*In the letter she outlines the three requirements for her effective
co-operation. These are:

“A: To have in-depth knowledge of all the sanctions imposed on Burma.

B: To come to full grips with the extent of the consequences suffered by
Burma as a result of sanctions.

C: To ascertain the attitudes and opinions of foreign governments which
have imposed sanctions on Burma.”

*Ms Suu Kyi also said that in order to meet these requirements she should be
allowed to hold talks with foreign missions.

In particular she named the mission heads of the United States, the European
Union and Australia.

*The regime may, however, ignore her initiative.

General Than Shwe is said to detest Ms Suu Kyi, and bans all mention of her
name.

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