By KYAW ZWA MOE
The Irrawaddy News
The burning question is: What was the real meaning and motive behind Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to meet UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari last week?
Does it represent the first step in a new political strategy to blunt the relentless march to the 2010 elections?
The Nobel Peace Laureate may feel that time is running out for the country’s opposition, and the momentum is now in favor of the ruling military regime in its effort to establish a civilian government based on “disciplined democracy.”
There’s no doubt she sent a strong message to the world, and many observers call it a “smart, but risky move.”
Yes, it’s smart and risky, but she had no other choice. It was time for a bold move, and she made it.
Actually the motive is clear—to initiate an effective, long-sought direct dialogue between her and the top military leaders. She clearly believes a dialogue—with compromise on both sides—is the most effective chance to establish real democracy in Burma, which she has called for since she entered politics in 1988.
Last November, Suu Kyi sent a message through Gambari in which she again called for direct dialogue with top military leaders, rather than with Aung Kyi, the liaison minister appointed by the junta last year in a move to ease mounting international pressure following the monk-led uprising in 2007 September.
Also, Suu Kyi, in the past months, has sent a specific message to the UN, one critical of its lack of backbone in demanding a time-bound dialogue process and sticking to substantive issues, rather than allowing itself to be manipulated by the junta’s efforts to legitimize itself.
Nyan Win, the spokesperson for her opposition group, the National League for democracy, quoting her when she met with seven NLD executive members in January 2007, said, “She must be really disappointed with the UN’s current process because of the lack of a time frame,”
Nyan Win recently told The Irrawaddy, “It would be one of causes of her refusal to meet with the UN envoy.”
“We can’t continue to work with Mr Gambari under this condition without a time frame,” said Nyan Win. During Gambari’s latest trip, said Nyan Win, he discussed the upcoming elections in meetings with the NLD executive members, and he met with junta-backed political and civil groups. “That was not on the list of what he is supposed to do,” said Nyan Win. “It’s outside his mission.”
Earlier, Gambari had said the UN has offered to assist in the upcoming elections in an effort to ensure fairness and establish international credibility. “We suggested that he not talk about the upcoming 2010 elections,” said Nyan Win. “But he said nothing about our suggestion.”
Gambari’s publically stated mission includes securing the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and restarting direct talks between Suu Kyi and top junta leaders.
Nyan Win bluntly said Gambari’s latest trip was a waste of time. Marie Okabe, a deputy spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, countered such criticism, calling the envoy’s visits a “process, not an event.”
Suu Kyi must believe that she has very little time left to craft a constructive agreement with the junta that could bring true democracy to Burma. She knows the junta is good at using “a process” to stall. The countdown to the 2010 elections draws nearer with each day.
Indeed, Suu Kyi has probably made a risky move, but it may be the only chance left to alter the junta’s march to a “disciplined democracy,” a euphemism for military rule.