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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Disbelief in Myanmar

IT S hard to believe the assurances by the junta running Myanmar that prodemocracy leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi can someday run for election. Military leaders have detained the 1991 Nobel laureate for

years, and their long harassment of her has to evoke more cynicism than expectation.

Once Myanmar has a constitution, Ms. Suu Kyi will be free to run for offi ce. The message came from a meeting with Southeast

Asian foreign ministers in Jakarta during a recent meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was a closeddoor

meeting, by the way, which suggests the young democracies in this region have a long way to go.

But their vague assurances could be nothing more than a political ploy, since Myanmar, formerly Burma, is poised to assume

the leadership of ASEAN s 10-nation organization in 2006. The international community has increasingly pressured Myanmar to release Ms. Suu Kyi, but up to now, it hasn t cooperated. Perhaps Myanmar s military junta is fi nally seeing the error of its ways.

The 58-year-old woman is Myanmar s symbol of freedom. As so many warriors for democracy do, she has waged the battle to

see her nation out from under military rule at great personal expense. Her children are now adults, but she wasn t there for much

of their teenage years, and the military refused to let her see her husband prior to his death fi ve years ago.

Myanmar plans to draw up a constitution at a national convention. When the document is in place, then Ms. Suu Kyi can seek

public offi ce, according to Foreign Minister Win Aung. Well, if he wants anybody to believe that, he might start by setting a date

for the convention fi rst.

This regime, remember, ignored the fact that Ms. Suu Kyi won free elections in 1990. The world would like to believe the glimmer

of hope offered by Myanmar s military rulers. But past events demand a wait-and see approach.

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