November 7, 2007 / 10:21 AM / in 10 years

Myanmar junta trashes U.N.'s talks offer

<p>U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari shakes hands with General Aung Kyi (R), named the junta's go-between with Suu Kyi, in Yangon November 6, 2007. REUTERS/UNIC Yangon/Handout .</p>

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar’s rejection of three-way talks with a U.N. special envoy and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may reflect the junta’s disdain for anything but its own widely derided “democracy roadmap”, analysts and diplomats said.

Even though it left open a tiny door for more visits by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari by rejecting U.N.-mediated dialogue mainly on the basis it was premature, state media laid into the world body on Wednesday, accusing it of being biased and interfering.

The four pages of “clarification on Myanmar’s situation” in the New Light of Myanmar, the junta’s main mouthpiece, stunned diplomats, who had seen a sliver of hope in Gambari’s two visits since September’s bloody crackdown on democracy protests.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this regime has no intention of cooperating with Gambari or of starting a process of genuine political dialogue,” one Yangon-based diplomat said. “It’s beyond them.”

However, former Australian ambassador Trevor Wilson said it was not unheard of for the junta to dismiss an outside proposal, such as Gambari’s three-way talks idea, and then come back later with a similar idea packaged as a home-grown initiative.

“They won’t accept any proposition like this unless they can demonstrate it’s not outside pressure and outside interference,” Wilson said. “They very often don’t come at something first time around, particularly if it’s not something they thought of.”

The challenge for Gambari is to cut through the rhetoric and convince the regime that talks about political reform with Suu Kyi, whose party won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power, could be in its own interests, Wilson said.

STUBBORN

Myanmar analysts in exile said the tone of the state media suggested complete intransigence on the part of junta supremo Than Shwe, whom many suspect is in denial about the deepening poverty that initially fuelled anti-junta protests in August.

In what was basically a lecture to Gambari reported in full in state media, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan launched into detailed criticism of the U.N., especially on the failed U.S.-led attempt to refer it to the Security Council in January.

“I would like you to know that Myanmar is a small nation and if a big power bullies her with its influences by putting Myanmar’s affairs on UNSC, we will have no other way but to face and endure,” he said. “You should not force or pressure us.”

Kyaw Hsan admitted the “national economy and public socio-economy are not developing as they should”, but laid the blame on international sanctions, rather than the policy ineptitude and corruption invoked by Western governments.

“This shows how stubborn the generals are,” said Win Min, a former student who now lectures in neighbouring Thailand. “They don’t want to talk. They just want to buy time.”

“Than Shwe is not going to be making concessions. He refuses to accept the social and economic problems of the people,” said Win Min, who fled a 1988 crackdown in which an estimated 3,000 people were killed. “He doesn’t want to listen to reality.”

Since soldiers crushed monk-led protests in September, killing at least 10 people and possibly many more, the junta has faced unprecedented pressure to move away from the 45 years of army rule that have crippled a once-promising economy.

However, the rigidly controlled state media have indicated the only reform plan on the table is the generals’ own seven-stage “roadmap to democracy”, dismissed by Western governments as a sham to keep the army in power.

Stage one, drawing up the basis of a new constitution, took 14 years, and nobody knows what stage two -- “step-by-step implementation of the process necessary for the emergence of a genuine and disciplined democratic system” -- actually means.

Gambari, who has failed to secure a meeting with Than Shwe on his visit, is expected to meet Suu Kyi on his return to Yangon from Myanmar’s new capital, Naypyidaw, on Thursday.

Editing by Michael Battye and Alex Richardson

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