The Talks: A Two-Year Chronology
Compiled By Tony Broadmoor
April 2000—EU adopts a stronger position against Burma’s military regime.
4, 2000—UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan appoints Razali Ismail as the UN special
envoy to Burma, replacing Alvaro de Soto. Razali Ismail was formerly
the Malaysian permanent representative to the UN.
14, 2000—The International Labor Organization (ILO) levies
unprecedented sanctions against Burma’s military government. The ILO
censure comes in response to the regime’s repeated refusal to eradicate
forced labor. The ILO orders all member countries to review their
polices towards Burma. Although hard hitting, Burmese analysts feel the
sanctions will be difficult to implement.
30, 2000—Razali Ismail makes his first visit to Burma. The visit lasts
four days. He meets with officials from the ruling State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC), leaders from the opposition National League
for Democracy (NLD), and foreign diplomats. Despite Aung San Suu Kyi
not being under house arrest at this time, Razali does not meet with
22, 2000—Aung San Suu Kyi is placed under house arrest again in Rangoon
after attempting to travel outside of Rangoon. The regime had placed
travel restrictions on her that forbade her from leaving the capital.
2000—Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly meets with SPDC members, including
Maj-Gen Kyaw Win from the SPDC’s Office of Strategic Studies. The
content of the discussion is unknown. The "secret talks" officially
begin in Rangoon at this time. However, no news of the talks is
9, 2000—Razali’s second trip to Burma begins and lasts three days. He
is able to meet with Sr-Gen Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi, marking the
first time any special envoy has been able to meet with both leaders.
Razali’s first two trips are seen only as fact-finding missions.
21, 2000—A five-member delegation from the ILO travels to Burma to meet
with government officials. Their agenda is to discuss the regime’s
compliance with the ILO’s earlier recommendations about forced labor
12, 2000—During an Asean ministerial meeting in Vientiane, Laos, Asean
leaders and EU members express support for Razali’s efforts to bring
reconciliation to Burma.
5, 2001—Razali returns to Burma for a five-day visit. The regime
assures him that he will have access to Aung San Suu Kyi. Observers,
still unaware that talks have already begun, say they hope that Razali
can persuade the generals to agree to some sort of dialogue with the
opposition. Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammed leaves Rangoon just as
Razali arrives. Analysts believe Mahathir was in Rangoon to persuade
SPDC officials to clean up their reputation by involving the opposition
meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Foreign Minister Win
Aung and a leader of the Karen ethnic group. Upon completion of the
trip, Razali says he is satisfied with the visit.
January 15, 2001—The regime allows The Myanmar Times, an English-language weekly with ties to the government, to
announce that talks between the government and the NLD have been
underway since October. The announcement marks the first news of the
talks. The story is released on the heels of Razali’s third visit to
Burma. Despite the breaking news, reports of the talks in Burmese are
not released for another six months.
24, 2001—The regime frees 84 NLD members from detention. This is the
first major release of political prisoners since the talks began in
28, 2001—During a press conference after returning home from Burma,
Malaysian PM Mahathir hints at a possible transition to democracy. In
reference to Burma’s Sr-Gen Than Shwe, Mahathir says: "He is willing to
hold elections eventually. When elections are held, people must
understand that elections have limits. And not to use elections to
undermine authority." Mahathir also defends Burma against allegations
of forced labor by saying, "For a government that is poor it is a way
of taxing the people—contributing the labor instead of money."
Troika delegation from the European Union visits Burma for the second
time to see if any progress has been made that would allow the EU to
ease its sanctions. The EU delegation is comprised of senior officials
representing the President of the EU as well as the European
Commission. The group meets with senior members of the SPDC, senior
opposition figures including Aung San Suu Kyi, religious leaders and
representatives from Burma’s ethnic minorities. The first Troika
mission occurred in July 1999.
1, 2001—Razali meets US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington,
DC, where the two discuss Burma’s reconciliation process. A US State
Dept press release says that, "[Powell] is encouraged by Razali’s
reports that dialogue is moving forward but [the US government] is
mindful that the Burmese regime continues to systematically violate the
fundamental, basic human rights of its citizens."
3, 2001— Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN’s special rapporteur on human
rights in Burma, makes his first visit to the country since taking the
post. This is the first time in six years that the regime has
authorized a visit by a UN special rapporteur on human rights. The
visit is three days long and Pinheiro meets with both Aung San Suu Kyi
and the generals. Observers feel the regime allowed the visit in hopes
of polishing its tarnished international image. Pinherio says there is
a "cautious optimism" in Burma surrounding the talks.
2001—The EU renews its sanctions against Burma, citing a lack of
progress in the country’s reconciliation process. The EU has renewed
sanctions every six months since first establishing them in 1996.
9, 2001—Japan tells visiting Deputy Defense Minister Brig-Gen Khin
Maung Win that Japan is considering resuming aid to Burma to reward the
regime for its national reconciliation efforts. Human rights activists
and international governments condemn Japan for prematurely providing
relief to the regime.
1, 2001—Razali’s fourth visit to Burma begins and lasts for four days.
Razali is able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi twice. He also meets with
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung.
June 2001—News of the talks is finally released in Burmese, six months
after it first appeared in foreign-language media outlets around the
world, including the Rangoon-based English-language Myanmar Times.
19, 2001—Aung San Suu Kyi does not attend a Martyrs’ Day celebration at
Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, setting off rumors that the talks have
collapsed. Suu Kyi is barred from issuing a statement, but Foreign
Minister Win Aung says that all is well with the talks.
24, 2001—Three Burmese pro-democracy groups issue a letter calling on
Razali to begin mediating in the dialogue instead of simply
facilitating the talks as he had been doing. Razali does not comment on
the letter. The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), the
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) and the Network for Democracy
and Development (NDD) all sign the letter.
26, 2001—NLD senior party leaders U Aung Shwe and U Tin Oo are released
from house arrest after nearly a year. The move comes just one day
before UN special envoy Razali returns to Burma for his fifth visit.
Aung San Suu Kyi expresses "great satisfaction in seeing that Aung Shwe
and Tin Oo and the rest of the members will now be able to be active in
their party affairs."
27, 2001—Razali returns for his fifth trip to Burma. He is able to meet
with Aung San Suu Kyi twice during the visit but is unable to meet with
SPDC ruler Than Shwe. Razali claims at the time that the talks have
entered into a new phase but refuses to elaborate.
31, 2001—Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw comments after Razali’s
fifth visit that Britain hopes the UN special envoy can "inject even
greater urgency into a process leading to national reconciliation".
Roger Mitton releases an article, "Remember Where You Read It First:
Yes, there is going to be a settlement in Myanmar" in Asiaweek magazine, predicting that Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime will come to an agreement on a political transition by year’s end.
August 2001—Seven ethnic groups from Burma form the Ethnic
Nationalities Solidarity Cooperation Committee (ENSCC) in hopes of
joining the talks in Rangoon. Saw Ba Thin, chairman of the Karen
National Union (KNU), heads the seven-member committee. Saw Ba Thin
says: "We welcome and support the current talks between the SPDC and
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Although we definitely want unity and peace in
our country, we will fight together if the junta does not recognize our needs and attempts to crack down on us."
5, 2001—Thai Deputy Prime Minster Chavalit Yongchaiyudh claims a
breakthrough in the talks is imminent after Burma’s Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt
completes a visit to Thailand. Chavalit says the military has made an
offer to Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD and that "We hope to hear good
news soon if the other side accepts the proposal." Chavalit also says
Khin Nyunt has been meeting Aung San Suu Kyi every two weeks for some
spokesman U Lwin disputes all of these claims and tells the BBC that
"there is in fact no dialogue process going on at present," and that
"[The NLD is] waiting for the military to make an offer."
2001—The EU decides to renew its sanctions against Burma but says it
will relax them if the reconciliation talks begin to yield positive
results. The EU also agrees to allocate US $2 million for HIV/AIDS
assistance in Burma.
18, 2001—UN human rights rapporteur Pinheiro cuts his second trip to
Burma short due to an unspecified ailment. He says he hopes to return
soon to wrap up the trip.
5, 2001—UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan calls on the regime to continue releasing
prisoners and says that, "The national reconciliation process in Burma
is at a crossroads" and "more much needs to be done to make the process
8, 2001—After completing a thorough investigation of the alleged
continued use of forced labor in Burma, the ILO dismisses claims from
Burma’s government that the practice has been eradicated.
November 27, 2001—Razali returns to Burma for the 6th
time in 18 months. Diplomats say this is a significant number of visits
and will not be kept up unless Razali is confident he can resolve the
deadlock. Razali has separate visits with Aung San Suu Kyi and Lt-Gen
Khin Nyunt as well as other senior NLD leaders.
2001—The UN releases a statement after Razali’s sixth trip has
commenced. The statement says Razali is hopeful that "significant
progress" towards democracy is coming and that Razali reportedly asked
the regime to continue releasing political prisoners.
December 2001—International Non-Governmental Organization workers (INGO) in Burma tell The Irrawaddy
that they have also been meeting with Razali during his visits.
According to the INGO workers in Rangoon, Razali is looking for a
project that the two sides can collaborate on in order to build mutual
confidence. No news of this is reported.
2001—NLD leaders in Rangoon insist the talks are still only in the
confidence-building stages due to the large number of political
prisoners that are still incarcerated.
31, 2001—A total of 219 political prisoners have been released as of
the end of the year. However, activists note that most of the prisoners
had already completed their sentences or had never been officially
9, 2002—Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung says that opposition members
and foreign observers need to be patient regarding the reconciliation
process. He also tells the BBC that the prisoner releases are proof
that the process is continuing. He claims the military government will
free all political prisoners when the time is right and that the time
would come for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from house arrest. He
says the government does not want to be pushed from behind.
10, 2002—UN human rights rapporteur Pinheiro releases a 50-page report
to the UN on his findings in Burma. Pinheiro is set to return to Burma
the following month for another trip.
Late January 2002—Razali’s 7th trip to Burma is cancelled for unknown reasons but is reportedly rescheduled for March 3.
10, 2002—Pinheiro returns for an eight-day trip. He meets with Aung San
Suu Kyi and Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and also spends nine hours in Rangoon’s
infamous Insein Prison, where he meets with aging imprisoned Burmese
journalist U Win Tin and former university professor Dr Salai Tun Than,
who was arrested in November for holding a one-man pro-democracy
demonstration in Rangoon for which he was sentenced to seven years in
prison. The human rights rapporteur also visits Mytkyina Prison in the
Kachin State. Pinheiro is preparing to submit a report to the UN High
Commission on Human Rights in April.
18, 2002—The ILO returns to Burma to see how the regime is responding
to an ILO report from November 2001 that again condemned the regime for
refusing to eradicate forced labor. The ILO body is blocked from
visiting Aung San Suu Kyi during the visit. ILO officials are extremely
critical of the regime upon returning to the ILO headquarters in Geneva.
13, 2002—The EU’s third Troika delegation arrives in Rangoon. The EU is
in Burma to assess the country’s reconciliation process before
reviewing its sanctions against Burma in April. The EU meets with Aung
San Suu Kyi, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, among others.
18, 2002—The UN announces that Razali’s seventh trip has again been
postponed. The cancellation was first attributed to a heart attack
suffered by Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister U Khin Maung Win. The
regime, however, releases a statement claiming the government was still
too busy resolving the previous week’s alleged coup attempt by
relatives of former Burmese strongman Ne Win.
21, 2002—Burma’s military government allows the ILO to post a liaison
officer in Rangoon. The move comes roughly one month after the regime
again denied a request by the ILO to establish a full presence in the
country in order to better monitor forced labor in Burma. The decision
to allow the liaison officer comes two months before the ILO is set to
reviews its sanctions against Burma.
24, 2002—During an interview with the Washington-based Radio Free Asia
(RFA), NLD secretary U Lwin says that 142 NLD members have been
released from detention since the talks began.
28, 2002—UN human rights rapporteur Pinheiro addresses the UN
Commission on Human Rights. Pinheiro says the international community
must work with the regime in pushing for a democratic transition. He
calls for the release of political prisoners and specifically the
release of Burmese student leader Min Ko Naing. He tells the UN that
serious consideration needs to be given to an amnesty agreement for the
political prisoners have been released so far this year. Again, most if
not all had completed their sentences or had never been officially
charged. Burmese activists say the regime doesn’t deserve praise simply
for releasing individuals who have completed their sentences.
2, 2002—The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) releases
two new reports urging policy makers to reconsider their respective
positions on aid to Burma. ICG says the reports are not motivated by
the reconciliation talks in Rangoon.
4, 2002—The regime says it is considering releasing Aung San Suu Kyi
from house arrest. Foreign Minister Win Aung tells Reuters, "Oh yes, if
possible, of course we will do that…. Suu Kyi will not be in her house
for the rest of her life."
marks the second anniversary of Razali’s appointment to the special
envoy post. Analysts feel the special envoy’s efforts have yielded
8, 2002—NLD leader U Lwin says the recent coup allegations in Rangoon
have kept the reconciliation talks from moving beyond the
confidence-building stages and into a real political transition.
11, 2002—The European Parliament calls for tougher sanctions to be
levied against Burma by the EU if the reconciliation process does not
show signs of progress in the next six months. The EU is set to review
its sanctions against Burma later this month.
forces a UN resolution to take a softer stance against the regime. The
EU had been pushing for harsher sanctions against Burma, but Australia
refuses to go along. Burmese activists in Australia condemn Alexander
Downer’s government for "sticking their neck out for a rogue state".
19, 2002—UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan says he hopes that Razali’s upcoming
visit "will provide the [reconciliation] process with a fresh momentum
to assist the two sides to develop their confidence-building talks into
a more substantive dialogue in the near future."
refuses to say whether he is satisfied with the reconciliation talks or
not. He does say that national reconciliation will include releasing
Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
human rights rapporteur Pinheiro states that Razali’s trip will
"provide much-needed momentum" to the talks. Pinheiro goes on to say
that, "Concrete results in this process are needed, moreover, if real
and sustainable progress in the area of human rights is to be
achieved." He also notes that since the talks began 263 political
prisoners have been released.
April 22, 2002—Two foreign
journalists claim that Aung San Suu Kyi has come to an agreement with
the generals. Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report in The Australian
that Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to abandon the 1990 election results
and that she has joined an emergency committee alongside the generals.
Burmese analysts describe the article as "Mittonesque", in reference to
journalist Roger Mitton, who nearly a year earlier had incorrectly
predicted an imminent breakthrough in the talks.
resumes Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to Burma. Japan donates US $6.1
million for medical supplies. Japanese Ambassador to Burma Shigeru
Tsumori and Burma’s Health Minister Maj-Gen Ket Sein sign the
agreement. Analysts say the ODA is an attempt to secure future business
deals with the regime.
April 23, 2002—Razali arrives in Rangoon for a four-day visit—his 7th
visit since taking over as special envoy to Burma. International
governments say that tangible results need to be evident after this
visit. Observers say that international sanctions against the regime
could be stepped up again if no visible progress is forthcoming.
Possible punitive actions include the passage of US Senate Bill 926,
which seeks to cut all imports from Burma to the US. Trade with the US
accounts for over 25% of Burma’s total exports. Razali is scheduled to
meet with Aung San Suu Kyi twice during the visit as well military
leaders and NLD party leaders.
25, 2002—Razali says, after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and Lt-Gen
Khin Nyunt, that, "I’m hopeful there should be progress but I can’t
promise when it will be." Razali also meets with NLD Secretary U Lwin,
who says his meeting with Razali was beneficial. U Lwin tells reporters
that: "[Razali] said there will surely be a new development very soon
but said we have to go step by step. [Razali said] we have many good
friends around the world."
UN Commission on Human Rights accuses the SPDC of gross human rights
violations and stalling on political progress. The BBC reports that
Razali has hinted he might resign if he leaves the country empty-handed
6, 2002—Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest. The regime
invites news correspondents from around the globe to cover the event.
However, Burma's state-run press does not mention her release. The
regime does allow The Myanmar Times to report on the release. Suu Kyi was detained in her home for 19 months.
May 10, 2002—Ethnic leaders in Rangoon tell The Irrawaddy they
doubt the generals are any more sincere this time concerning national
reconciliation than they have been in the past. "If they were sincere
this time they would have announced the release in the papers. We don't
know who to believe or trust," says U Khun Tun Oo, leader of the Shan
National League for Democracy.
13, 2002—NLD spokesperson U Lwin says the NLD must be careful in their
dealings with the regime this time so as not to prolong the
reconciliation process. Regarding the continued dialogue, U Lwin tells The Irrawaddy, "We have been invited to the table, but we haven't received our invitation yet."
17, 2002—When asked whether an element of sincerity could be detected
from the generals, or if there has been a noticeable change in the
generals' attitudes during the 20 months of secert talks, Aung San Suu
Kyi tells The Irrawaddy, "I think you have to say there is a
change in their attitude; otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are. And as
to the matter of sincerity, this is for time to give the answer."
20, 2002—Thailand's ambassador to Burma, Oum Maolanon, meets with Aung
San Suu Kyi along with the Malaysian ambassador to Burma. Details of
the discussion are not released.
22, 2002—The SPDC seals all borders with Thailand after bilateral
relations take a nose-dive following a brief clash between Thai troops
and soldiers from the UWSA and the Burmese military. Observers see this
as the beginning of a campaign by the SPDC to steer attention away from
the opposition and the country's reconciliation process.
15, 2002—Aung San Suu Kyi makes her first visit outside of Rangoon
since being released from house arrest. She travels to Burma's Mon
State on a religious pilgrimage to meet with Tha Myin Nya, a highly
revered monk. Although not a politically oriented trip, analysts still
see it as a test of Suu Kyi's "unconditional release".
19, 2002—Aung San Suu Kyi turns 57 today. However, there have still
been no political breakthroughs or new political developments since her
May release. Observers feel the regime has changed tactics for dealing
with Suu Kyi. They feel the regime has now decided to simply ignore
her, instead of persecuting her in the press as they did for years.
21, 2002—The first true test of Suu Kyi's political freedom begins
today, as she embarks on a political organizing trip in upper Burma
that is scheduled to culminate in a visit to Mandalay, Burma's second
largest city. In Mandalay Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet with the SPDC's
visit will mark the first time Burma's military government has allowed
her to visit Mandalay since the NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990
28, 2002—At the last minute, Suu Kyi's meeting with Mandalay Central
Military Commander Maj-Gen Ye Myint is canceled. The SPDC does not give
a reason as to why the meeting was called off.
1, 2002—Upon Suu Kyi's return from Mandalay, NLD leaders appear
frustrated with the lack of developments since her release. NLD
spokesperson U Lwin tells reporters, in reference to the political
dialogue between the NLD and the junta, "It has not stalled because it
hasn't even started yet."
20, 2002—Another political organizing trip by the NLD begins. Suu Kyi
and other NLD representatives set out on a four-day tour of Burma's Mon
July 2002—The regime opposes attempts by Brunei to recognize Suu Kyi's
release from house arrest at an upcoming Asean Regional Forum
Ministerial Meeting, to be held in Brunei's capital. Brunei refuses to
bow to the junta and the reference stays. The meeting is scheduled to
begin July 29.
democracy activists are hoping that diplomats from the EU, the US as
well as other Asean countries will press the junta on recent
allegations of systematic rape as well as what appears to be a
non-existent dialogue between the regime and the opposition.
26, 2002—The regime frees 32 political prisoners from detention. This
is the first major release since Suu Kyi gained her own freedom in May.
1, 2002—The human rights record of Burma's military regime goes
unchallenged at the 9th Asean Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting.
Critics of the regime had hoped that diplomats could help jump-start
the country's stalled dialogue process, while pressing the regime on
recent allegations of human rights abuses.
the meeting Burma's Foreign Minister Win Aung says, "Everybody seemed
to appreciate what we are doing. I don't see any negative attitude
2, 2002—UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail returns to Rangoon for
his eighth visit, and his first since Suu Kyi's May release. He is
scheduled to meet with Suu Kyi, Sec-1 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, Burmese
Foreign Minister Win Aung and ethnic minority leaders as well as
foreign ambassadors in Rangoon. The visit is to last for five days.
5, 2002—Japan's Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi ends a three-day
visit to Rangoon. During her visit she meets with Sr-Gen Than Shwe,
Khin Nyunt and Suu Kyi. Kawaguchi is the highest-ranking government
official from an industrialized nation to meet with Suu Kyi since being
freed in May, and the first Japanese foreign minister to come to Burma
in nearly 20 years.
advises Sr-Gen Than Shwe and the regime to promote dialogue with the
opposition. Than Shwe vows to do his best but says he can't give "any
concrete response at this point".
Nyunt tells Kawaguchi that relations with Suu Kyi have improved
considerably over the last 18 months. He also reportedly tells her that
the NLD had "taken a very confrontational stand" for years but things
had "changed for the better since talks began in 2000".
analysts are not surprised that the Japanese diplomat met with Suu Kyi,
they feel it is a significant show of support for the democracy leader
and the opposition movement.
6, 2002—At the conclusion of his visit, Razali tells reporters that his
trip has been productive, and he expects reconciliation talks to begin
within the next few months. He also says he will return in a couple of
Razali as saying that both the government and Suu Kyi are making
efforts "to try to discuss the necessary political and constitutional
reports that Suu Kyi told Razali that her recent political organizing
trips throughout the country convinced her to cooperate with the
regime. Razali tells AFP, "[Suu Kyi] told me to make known that
she is willing to cooperate with the government in any way that
directly benefits all the people of Myanmar and in any way that would
be conducive to the evolution of a democratic state."
2002—Suu Kyi tells the BBC that dialogue with the junta would resume
within weeks. She also says nothing would be ruled out before entering
into negotiations. Suu Kyi says, "I don't have anything fixed in my own
mind as to whether I would share or not share. We are not going to go
into this dialogue with pre-conceived ideas."
she also says the opposition has become worried over the dialogue's
slow pace and namely the slow release of political prisoners.
a videotape distributed in Bangkok by Altsean-Burma today, Suu Kyi
says, "The release of political prisoners is the most important thing
for all those who truly wish to bring about change in Burma." And later
adds, "We insist that the release of political prisoners is necessary
if the process of reconciliation is to go forward to a point where it
becomes truly irreversible."
12, 2002—The Karen National Union (KNU) calls on Rangoon to restart a
stalled peace process that began in 1996. KNU Commander Gen Bo Mya
urges the SPDC to enter into dialogue with Suu Kyi. However, he adds
that reconciliation is doubtful if the SPDC and the NLD did not include
the minorities in the talks.
16, 2002—Six NLD members are released from prison—including U Aye Thar
Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament
(CRPP)—ahead of a two-day visit to Burma by Malaysian Prime Minister
August 17, 2002—An editorial in the Bangkok-based English language newspaper The Nation
criticizes UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail for his involvement
in business activities with the regime, while trying to facilitate the
country's reconciliation process. The editorial reads: "Razali should
have the courage to choose one or the other job….The UN's reputation is
also at stake when the Rangoon junta makes use of him."
18, 2002—Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives in Rangoon
for a two-day visit. Despite requests by Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with
him, Mahathir says he has no plan to do so.
spokesperson U Lwin reiterates Suu Kyi's desire to see the Malaysian
leader, and also says there is a possibility that she will meet with
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar; neither visit takes place.
Rangoon-based diplomats, however, report that Mahathir was willing to meet Suu Kyi, but that the Burmese junta vetoed the idea.
19, 2002—Mahathir's visit ends after meetings with Sr-Gen Than Shwe as
well as Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt. Mahathir and his 300-person entourage also
hold extensive business meetings while in Rangoon.
tells reporters in Rangoon: "While we uphold democracy and would like
to see democracy practiced in a country, we are also aware the process
must be gradual. We know from experience it is not easy to handle
democracy. If we do not know how to handle it we will end up with
military leaders also take the opportunity during Mahathir's visit to
stress the need for gradual change. Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt says, "Such a
transition cannot be done in haste and in a haphazard manner. The world
is full of examples where a hasty transition from one system to another
have led to instability and even failed states."
August 20, 2002—Aung San Suu Kyi tells The Irrawaddy
that comments made by Mahathir Mohamad during his trip to Burma are
unacceptable, and that the NLD is under the impression that the SPDC
did in fact veto attempts by her to meet with Mahathir.
cannot accept the notion that if democracy is not tackled properly it
could become anarchy," says Aung San Suu Kyi. "I think that sort of
comment is patronizing to the people of Burma."
leaders inside and outside Burma echo the same sentiment, saying
Mahathir is only interfering with the reconciliation process. Prominent
Shan intellect and academic Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe says, "I think Mahathir
is pushing for change or dialogue in Burma in his way, but his
definition for democracy is not ours."
Kyi also notes discrepancies between the SPDC, Razali and Mahathir
regarding when the reconciliation process is set to begin again. Suu
Kyi tells The Irrawaddy: "During his last visit, Mr Razali said
he thinks the changes may take place faster, and that the negotiations
may begin within weeks or within a month. There were some discrepancies
between what Mr Razali said and what Prime Minister Mahathir and Sec-1
[Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt] told the press."
6, 2002—Thai Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Kraisak
Choonhavan berates the Burmese junta in front of the Thai Senate for
their treatment of ethnic minorities. Kraisak cites the report "License
to Rape" and says, "Children and adults were tortured and killed
without a reason….We have the names of the victims and Burmese soldiers
responsible." Kraisak also blames Thai Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra for trying too hard to appease the junta. He says Burma
would be a much more developed country without the regime.
Burmese Labor Minister Tin Win denies the claims saying Kraisak hates Burma and supports the Shan State Army.
8, 2002—An EU mission arrives in Rangoon for a three-day assessment of
the dialogue process between the regime and the opposition, and to see
if EU sanctions should again be extended. Carsten Nilaus Pederson, a
regional director at the Danish Foreign Ministry, heads the four-member
team. The group meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, NGO representatives and
junta officials. This is the fourth official EU trip to Burma since
1999 and the first since Aung San Suu Kyi was released in May from
house arrest. Details of their meetings are not disclosed.
15, 2002—Thai newspapers report that the Burmese regime is content on
maintaining tensions with Thailand in order to slow the country’s
reconciliation process. The report in The Bangkok Post
cites a joint meeting between the army, the Supreme Command and the
National Security Council where this opinion was offered. One source
said, "The Burmese government doesn’t want peace. They are afraid of
change, which can bring them down. So they have to picture Thailand as
a threat to maintain their status."
September 18, 2002—Today marks the 14th
anniversary of the junta’s 1988 coup. The US government releases a
statement coinciding with the day and accuses the regime of failing to
press forward with change. US State Department spokesperson Richard
Boucher says: "Today is the 14th anniversary of the
suppression of the people’s hopes for democracy, and the establishment
of the military regime in Burma….We are disappointed that the regime
has failed to follow through on steps toward national reconciliation
after releasing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May of this year.
We encourage the regime to pursue substantive dialogue with the
democratic opposition and to release all of the many remaining
political prisoners unconditionally."
23, 2002—The junta announces it as released 18 more political
prisoners, ten of whom are NLD members. It was the largest group to be
freed since last year. Analysts note that the release was timed to
coincide with Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung’s visit to the UN
General Assembly in New York. A regime spokesman says: "The government
of Myanmar will continue to release more individuals who will cause no
harm to the community nor threaten the existing peace, stability and
union of the nation."
September 27, 2002—Aung San Suu Kyi marks the 14th
anniversary of the NLD by saying that she is willing to cooperate and
work together with the regime to improve the lives of ordinary Burmese
people. In front of 400 plus party members at the NLD headquarters she
says, "We will never hesitate to cooperate with the armed forces based
on sincere goodwill….It is high time we all worked for the country
holding hands together."
2-3 2002—Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer arrives in
Rangoon for a two-day visit. This is the first visit by a senior
Western politician in years. The trip is billed as a fact-finding
mission by the Australian government. Analysts, however, criticize the
trip saying it will only unfairly boost the regime’s international
Downer meets with Aung San
Suu Kyi as well as Sr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen Khin Nyunt. The Australian
foreign minister quoted Than Shwe as saying, "The military is committed
to reform in the democratization process with an increasing role for
democracy and a lesser role for the military." Although he says the
regime provided him with no time frame for reform.
tells reporters in Bangkok after his visit that he told the generals
that they must speed up the reconciliation process if sanctions are to
be lifted and aid increased. "They said they are moving forward to
democracy but that they need to have constitutional progress and
also asked junta leaders to participate in a human rights workshop that
would be sponsored by the Australian government. Aung San Suu Kyi says she doubts the initiative will have any effectiveness.
4, 2002—In response to a September crackdown on democracy activists
inside Burma, Western governments and human rights groups condemn the
regime. The US government described the arrests of over thirty
activists as a "significant step backwards". The statement goes on to
say: "These arrests are inconsistent with the government’s stated
commitment of political reform."
US-based Free Burma Coalition, which lobbies businesses to sever ties
with the regime, said, "These arrests indicate the generals have
absolutely no plans to democratize the country."
US Senator Mitch McConnell says such arrests may lead the US into increasing its sanctions.
18, 2002—UN human rights rapporteur for Burma Sergio Paulo Pinheiro
returns to Burma for his fourth trip. The trip is scheduled to last
until October 28. Pinheiro is to meet with regime officials, Aung San
Suu Kyi, NGO workers and political prisoners.
22, 2002—Pinheiro was tentatively scheduled to go to Shan State to
investigate reports of widespread rape and abuse of ethnic minorities
living there, but he abruptly cancels his trip citing time constraints.
The regime had invited him to go Shan State, claiming they had nothing
to hide. Human rights activists applauded his decision not to go,
saying the junta would have made any investigation impossible and would
have instead used the trip as a public relations move.
dissidents, however, said Pinheiro should have taken the opportunity to
push the regime harder and called for a legitimate investigation
also meets with Aung San Suu Kyi today. He says after the meeting: "The
prospect of dialogue is good. I do not want to elaborate on it. In
fact, I have to keep everything confidential." He also says he told
junta officials they "need to pursue negotiations for national
23, 2002—The EU agrees to extend its sanctions against Burma. The EU
welcomed some steps taken by the regime but said they were unhappy with
further efforts. They said the arrest of democracy activists in
September was of "grave concern".
30, 2002—After completing his fourth trip, Pinheiro says it is "absurd"
that the international community has chosen not to engage the Burmese
regime or donate badly needed aid money until democratic reforms are in
says once a transition occurs in Burma many current government
officials will remain in office—including judges, prosecutors and army
officials. "I don’t understand the expectation that Burma would be
different, that you would have a brand new state apparatus, brand new
people, brand new minds that will be able to deal with human rights
issues….Don’t expect instant regime change in Burma."
4, 2002—The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) begins
preliminary talks with the SPDC concerning a failed ceasefire deal from
March 1995. The KNPP submits nine demands—including a need to resolve
the country’s political stalemate with Aung San Suu Kyi.
November 11-12, 2002—The Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysiakini News Service releases two installments of an exclusive interview with UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail. Razali
speaks candidly about his frustrations with the regime and the
possibility that he will step down if immediate reforms are not taken.
Yap Mun Ching conducts the interview, which occurred the previous week
and comes the day before his ninth mission to Burma begins.
his upcoming visit and the stalled dialogue, he says: "I am hoping to
get the momentum moving again, and I want to understand why it has
slowed down….They didn't give a time but they said very soon. I have
been dealing with dialogues and diplomatic discussions on various
issues all over the world for a number of years. In my understanding,
‘very soon’ would be like a couple of weeks or three to four weeks. It
has been more than that….I am surprised seeing that. I can find no
reason why there should be that much of a delay. There are always
reasons, but the lapse is rather prolonged."
I step down it would be because it takes too much time, and if I think
I am not going anywhere with the discussions. If it just goes on and
on, I may decide to step down."
Razali says Aung San Suu Kyi has not compromised her stance by saying she is willing to cooperate with the SPDC. "The
word ‘compromise’ shouldn't be used….She has seen that the Myanmar
people are far behind their neighbors in terms of development….I don't
think anybody would dispute that Myanmar may be some 30 to 35 years
behind Malaysia. She really wants Myanmar to catch up with that and
make up for the lost time. She told me that she is prepared to
cooperate with the government in anything as long as it brings direct
benefit to the people and it promotes the process of democracy."
During the second installment of malaysiakini’s interview
with Razali, he defends his holdings in Iris Technologies and its
investment in Burma saying there is no conflict of interest. Opposition
and ethnic leaders have questioned his integrity since news of the
joint-venture was announced earlier this year.
says that if people see a conflict of interest he will leave the post.
"I would be quite happy not to be special envoy, I have other things to
do in my life. I was sort of shanghaied to do this job. If they don’t
think that I am the right person to do it then they can always
terminate the contract."
while defending Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, says other
Asean countries are not doing enough for Burma’s reconciliation
process. "As far as the other Asean leaders are concerned, as a
Malaysian or even as a UN special envoy, I am somewhat surprised that
they have not expended energy to that extent….In the case of Asean,
while respecting the question of non-interference strongly, it is still
possible to express your view on a particular situation. After all, we
have common borders. There is mobility across borders and people move
from one side to the other and there is also [migrant] laborers from
Myanmar. There is also the fear of HIV spread, and the fear of the
movement of narcotics, whatever their place of origin. So, all Asean
countries, particularly the ones physically neighboring Myanmar, have
the right to make known their views and hope that there will be peace,
reconciliation and economic development."
12, 2002—Razali Ismail begins his ninth mission to Burma since taking
the post in April 2000. Analysts see the five-day visit as a crucial
step after Razali threatened to step down if real reforms were not
taken. Razali is to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and opposition party
members and is hoping to be granted a meeting with Sr-Gen Than Shwe.
14, 2002—A meeting takes place between Sr-Gen Than Shwe, Gen Khin
Nyunt, Vice-Sr Gen Maung Aye and Razali. The meeting only lasts for 15
minutes, deflating some hopes that Than Shwe would announce some sort
of planned reform. A second meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is
currently touring Shan State, is canceled after the short meeting with
Than Shwe. Razali does not comment on what transpired during the brief
meeting. Than Shwe, however, reportedly tells Razali the regime is
doing all they can.
short meeting sparks a reaction from Burmese dissidents in exile, who
say this shows the regime was never serious about reform. Chao Tzang
Yawng-hwe, a Shan scholar, says "We can now see their true colors."
November 17, 2002—A government spokesman tells The Myanmar Times that
Gen Khin Nyunt had assured Razali of "Myanmar’s earnestness on
political evolution." The spokesman also told the weekly: "We feel as
though the process is moving forward. Such movement can only occur at a
pace with which we are comfortable….Much has been achieved already this
year and people have to understand the process may be slow because it
says that although discussions are taking place they are not equivalent
to dialogue. "I am always disappointed when there are no full results,
but that’s the nature of my mission. I can’t expect good results all
18, 2002—Observers blame the continued stalled dialogue on the lack of
pressure put on the regime by the international community. Kavi
Chongkittavorn, from the Bangkok-based The Nation newspaper,
writes in a column that "It should surprise nobody that the junta
leaders in Rangoon prefer to drag their feet further….They know full
well that the global community, the region in particular, probably
cares less about the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and the lack of
democratic reforms in Burma since the war in Iraq and the threats from
al-Qaeda networks are now the top agenda. If this trend continues, it
is almost certain that the process of political reconciliation will be
reinvigorate concerted international pressure, Thailand must take the
lead by abandoning the current myopic path of backing the junta
leaders…With Thailand showing concern about the political process of
its most important neighbor, its friends overseas would probably become
21, 2002—The regime claims to have released 115 political prisoners,
the largest general amnesty since the talks began. Sources say,
however, that only half of them were released because some refused to
sign a document recognizing provisions of "Section 401 of the Criminal
Procedure Code" that states they must serve the remainder of their
sentences if rearrested for engaging in political activities. Observers
note that during Razali’s last mission to Rangoon, he allegedly urged
Than Shwe to release a minimum of 200 political prisoners by year’s end.
as some prisoners are being released, Rangoon law student Khin Maung
Win, who was arrested in August for staging a political demonstration
in front of Rangoon City Hall, is sentenced to seven years in prison.
22, 2002—NLD spokesman U Lwin says the release is inadequate and that
the NLD "requested that the authorities release 400 political
prisoners, including prominent figures, from both the NLD and other
groups". He says that 111 party members remain incarcerated, including
16 elected members of parliament.
23, 2002—US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly berates the regime
for its inadequate attempts at fostering national reconciliation. Kelly
says the generals should "hang their heads in shame" over the ongoing
economic crisis. Concerning the reconciliation talks he says: "We are
at the point where, absent further progress, the process that has begun
may well falter, an outcome that will cause the international community
to reassess again its approach to the issue of democracy in Burma….If
progress remains elusive, Burma must consider the possibility that
other countries may join in measures with the US, such as a ban on new
4, 2002—The Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), an
umbrella organization for opposition groups inside Burma, accepts two
more political parties—including exiled Prime Minister Dr Sein Win’s
party. Rangoon-based observers note the expansion of the CRPP is one of
the more significant moves taken by the opposition since Burmese
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in
leader Khun Htun Oo said the expansion of the CRPP is part of a
shifting strategy by the opposition. "It's a new way to break the
current political deadlock," says Khun Htun Oo. "We should see the CRPP
as a negotiating token."
urges all political parties and independent MPs to join the CRPP in
order to gain legal status from the regime. "The allowed expansion of
the CRPP means all members are becoming semi-legal even though they
were banned by authorities," adds Khun Htun Oo.
5, 2002—Former Burmese strongman Ne Win dies in Rangoon at 91.
Dissidents to diplomats say his death will have no bearing on the
country’s fledgling reconciliation process.
8, 2002—The Military Alliance Group, founded in May 1999, invites other
Burmese ethnic groups to join. The group was started by the Restoration
Council of Shan State, Karen National Union, Karenni Peoples
Progressive Party, Chin National Front and the Arakan Liberation Party.
An Alliance spokesperson said they are drawing up new military
strategies and that they don’t want to see ethnic armies fighting
against one another.
December 10, 2002—The BBC’s Lyse Doucet speaks with Aung San Suu Kyi on Talking Point, concerning the reconciliation process and status of the country.
are confident change will come—not as quickly as most of us would wish,
but it will come," Aung San Suu Kyi says on Talking Point. She says she
is hopeful that by this time next year progress will have occurred. And
that "one of the most important things that has been achieved is that a
number of political prisoners have been released. But there are
hundreds still imprisoned for their beliefs—prisoners of conscience.
Until all of them are released, I don't think we can say that we have
made sufficient progress."
tells on one Burmese dissident who calls to the program that: "The
important thing is that we should be unwavering in our efforts, however
long it takes us and however hard the road, we must be prepared to go
all the way because what we are doing is not just for ourselves but for
the future generations of Burma."
sanctions: "We have not asked for further sanctions but neither have we
withdrawn our support for sanctions because there is not yet political
dialogue in place."
you consider the fact that we have been struggling for 14 years and you
think of countries like South Africa where the struggle went on for
decades. We can't say that it is taking too long. After all what we've
trying to do is to change the whole course of the future of our country
and obviously that is a very difficult task and the more difficult the
task the longer it tends to take…. We are not at all discouraged. We
would like change to come as quickly as possible but we are determined
to go on struggling until change comes and we are confident that change
will come—not as quickly as most of us would wish it to come—but it
will come. And I think the more we all try to make change come instead
of wondering when change will come, the quicker it will come."
says that her visit to Shan State in November showed her that the
country is committed to change."One of the happiest experiences of my
visit to the Shan States was the realization that there is tremendous
solidarity there. That although there's many, many different ethnic
groups in Burma, we are all united in the desire for change. We are all
united in the desire to make Burma a truly democratic union which is
fit for all our peoples to live in."
17, 2002—Sr-Gen Than Shwe, while visiting Bangladesh, allegedly
promises a return to democracy, according to Bangladesh Foreign
Secretary Shamser Mobin Chowdhury. The foreign secretary quotes Than
Shwe as saying, "The military establishment has no intention to deny
democracy to the Myanmar people, and state power ultimately belongs to
the people. The present set up is a transitional arrangement."
1, 2003—British Foreign Office Minister Mike O’Brien releases a
statement expressing concern about Aung San Suu Kyi’s treatment during
her travels and calling on Sr-Gen Than Shwe to enter into a "serious
dialogue" with the NLD and other opposition groups. He says "Burma
cannot make progress until we see a real will for political reform from
2, 2003—The US criticizes the harassment of Aung San Suu Kyi by
government-affiliated groups. "The United States calls on the Myanmar
regime to ensure that all political parties can carry their message to
the Myanmar people in safety," says US State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher. "Political change is needed in Myanmar."
January 4, 2003—The NLD releases a statement on the 55th
anniversary of Burma’s Independence Day. It says, "Today is the most
auspicious, being Independence Day and is the most appropriate time for
a dialogue between NLD and SPDC." In addition to reaffirming the NLD’s
commitment to talks, the statement lists conditions that must be met
before their commencement. The conditions include the carrying out of
the 1990 election results, convening the National Convention, drafting
a constitution and monitoring aid donations for transparency.
NLD refuses to take part in an Independence Day flag-raising ceremony
at People’s Park in Rangoon, calling the government-sponsored event
"undemocratic." A message from Sr-Gen Than Shwe is read but it does not
mention the talks between the regime and the NLD.
8, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi holds her year-end press conference in
Rangoon. She says, "We have clearly stated that there have been no
talks to date but it is not because we are not ready. It is the
authorities who are not ready." When asked about a government
announcement that accused her of resorting to confrontation, she
replies, "Regarding your question about the diminishing chances of
dialogue, I think it is best not to speculate but to look at the hard
facts. How sincere are the authorities in this matter? Judge from the
events that have happened."
31, 2003—Two representatives from Amnesty International arrive in Burma
and meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. The ten-day trip is the first official
visit by the group. The representatives say they hope to speak to
people from the government and opposition.
6, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi is chosen by the Freedom Forum to receive the
2002 Al Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award. The entire US $1
million award goes to the opposition leader, marking the first time an
individual has received the entire prize amount. Suu Kyi meets with
Neuharth in Rangoon and records a videotape address to be played at the
awards ceremony. She declines an invitation to attend personally,
saying, "I will never leave Burma until I can return to this country
freely." Her son, Alexander Aris, agrees to represent her at the event.
10, 2003—Twelve democracy supporters are arrested, including seven
members of the NLD. Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary of the Shan National
League for Democracy, is also reportedly arrested for printing
12, 2003—UN Secretary General Kofi Annan voices his concern at the
arrests of the twelve opposition party members. He reiterates his
belief that national reconciliation should begin with talks between the
regime and Aung San Suu Kyi. A statement released by one of his
spokespeople says, "For such a constructive dialogue to move forward,
the opposition parties, including NLD, should be able to engage freely
in political activities in Myanmar."
12, 2003—The Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, or CRPP,
calls upon the regime to begin a dialogue with the NLD without
pre-conditions. The CRPP releases its statement on the occasion of
Burma’s 56th anniversary of Union Day.
San Suu Kyi comments on the state of the talks during a Union Day
ceremony at the NLD headquarters. She says, "We, on our part, are
putting all our efforts to start a dialogue for the sake of national
reconciliation." She then questions the regime’s commitment to the same
goal by asking if they "really want such a dialogue."
a message read during an official Union Day celebration in Rangoon,
Sr-Gen Than Shwe urges Burmese to "strive in harmony, for the emergence
of a state constitution that would pave the way for the building of a
new discipline-flourishing democratic state." He also warns people to
be aware of threats from "external and internal elements" who were
"using various ways and means to constantly hinder and sabotage our
13, 2003—The US State Department releases a statement calling on the
military government to "engage in a real dialogue on constitutional
issues." The statement also reaffirms US support of the efforts of UN
special envoy Razali Ismail.
21, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi faces jail after refusing to pay a 500 kyat
(US 50 cents) fine imposed by a Burmese court. The case stems from an
incident at her lakeside compound in May 2002 when Suu Kyi’s cousin
punched her. The cousin, Soe Aung, filed charges against Suu Kyi
because she reacted by kicking him out of the compound, where he also
lived. The court ruled in favor of Soe Aung and told the opposition
leader she had a choice between a week in jail or the fine. When she
refused the fine, court authorities backtracked by postponing the jail
sentence. Analysts in Rangoon say the decision is nothing more than an
attempted smear campaign by the regime, because the charges were filed
some time ago but the case not heard until today.
24, 2003—NLD spokesperson U Lwin says the talks do not depend on
mediation or advice from a third party. He speaks in reference to a
statement issued by the regime to the US, which invites the Americans
"to join us in open constructive dialogue toward humanitarian, economic
and political development." U Lwin responded by saying, "We don’t need
anybody, US or whoever, for the talks. What is important is to have a
26, 2003—The Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) releases a
statement urging international organizations to suspend all forms of
aid and assistance to the Burmese military government. It blames the
regime for the banking crisis, saying that the "nasty catastrophe is
obvious evidence that without political change and reform" the Burmese
economy will remain "deplorable." Exiled workers and students who
participated in 8-8-88 events formed the FTUB in 1991.
3, 2003— Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN’s special rapporteur on human
rights in Burma, releases a report to be presented at the UN Human
Rights Commission in Geneva. He urges the international community to
drop its high expectations for transition in Burma, and instead
recognize the incremental changes taking place. "The people of the
country should not be held hostage to a political transition," he
writes. Pinheiro also stresses that "the policy option now should be
engagement, not isolation."
6, 2003—The NLD and an ethnic Mon group in exile express concerns over
the health of political prisoners. In separate statements, the groups
say that long-term prisoners are suffering from disease due to food
shortages and the inadequate treatment and medicine they receive in
7, 2003— Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service interviews Aung San Suu Kyi.
She says the Burmese people must rise above political divisions and
work together for political reform. She also reacts coolly to the
junta’s recent statement calling upon the US to join talks on the
country’s political development, saying "instead of inviting an
external country to give advice, it would be better to start
negotiations ourselves." Regarding the likelihood of talks between the
NLD and the military regime, Suu Kyi asks, "Does the SPDC really have
the will to have negotiations with us or not?"
March 9, 2003—A piece written by Aung San Suu Kyi appears in Parade Magazine.
In the piece, Suu Kyi focuses on the theme of freedom and talks of her
interactions with students, women, and farmers, highlighting the
desires of each group. She closes with an expression of optimism,
saying the opposition is "firm in our faith that the will of the people
will ultimately triumph."
13, 2003—Dissident groups commemorate Human Rights Day of Burma. The
Foreign Affairs Committee of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions
and Patriotic War Veterans of Burma, both based in Thailand, issue
statements urging the military regime to initiate meaningful dialogue
with Aung San Suu Kyi. "Burma’s political dilemma will ease with talk,"
says Sai Win Kyaw of the veterans’ group. "We don’t agree with soldiers
as rulers and don’t like the way the Burmese army is used as a tool to
crush its own citizens."
19, 2003—Paolo Sergio Pinheiro arrives in Burma for a week-long trip,
his fifth mission since being appointed in 2000. He will reportedly be
examining the lack of political prisoner releases as well as pushing
for an independent assessment of allegations concerning sexual abuse of
women in Shan State by the Burma Army. He is scheduled to meet with
government authorities and opposition members, including Aung San Suu
Kyi. NLD spokesperson U Lwin says he "is not impressed with [Pinheiro]
even a little bit" and adds that the NLD "does not expect anything"
from him during the visit. "We don’t see any improvements in the human
rights situation since he took the position," he concludes.
March 24, 2003—A senior UN official tells the Bangkok Post
that the Burmese regime is going to have to provide Pinheiro with some
major concessions to avoid him resigning at the end of the month, after
he is due to report back to the UN in Geneva. "There is every
possibility that this may be professor Pinheiro’s last visit," says the
24, 2003—Pinheiro cuts his visit short after discovering a wireless
microphone hidden under his desk as he interviews political prisoners
in Rangoon’s Insein Prison. The junta had promised that he could go
anywhere he wanted and interview anyone he chose in absolute privacy.
After finding the listening device Pinheiro walks out of the prison
immediately and lodges an official protest with the Burmese
authorities. He tells journalists afterwards, "I think that was a very
serious incident and my untimely departure is an expression of my anger
and frustration." He was to stay for two more days. UN officials tell
the BBC that Pinheiro hopes to return to Rangoon in May to complete his
26, 2003—In an interview with the BBC, Pinheiro, speaking from Bangkok,
reiterates a UN demand that all of the estimated 1,200 political
prisoners in Burma be released by the military regime. "It is
unacceptable releasing prisoners drop by drop, because this is a
cruelty for the prisoners, some of which are very old," he said. He
also commented on the slow pace of the reconciliation process, saying,
"I didn’t see any progress. We are in a very delicate position."
3, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi leaves for Chin State, on her sixth trip to
visit and re-open party offices outside of Rangoon since her release
from house arrest in May 2002. The trip is expected to last ten days.
NLD spokesperson U Lwin warns, "[Suu Kyi] might face harassment like
she did on her last trip." Officials used a fire truck to disperse a
crowd at a Suu Kyi speech in Arakan State in December 2002.
14, 2003—European Union foreign ministers agree to extend sanctions
against Burma for another year. They also strengthen the arms embargo
and increase the number of people subject to a visa ban, saying they
can find no credible reason for the regime not agreeing to a return to
15, 2003—Burma’s ruling military government releases a statement
hinting that it might be willing to engage in talks with the
pro-democracy leadership. The regime says it has "complete trust" in
the commitment of Aung San Suu Kyi to the "smooth and stable
development" of the country. The statement adds, "It is only by working
together and discussing problems in a constructive way, that the people
of Myanmar can build a strong, united and developed nation." The NLD
responds via spokesperson U Lwin, who says, "It is very encouraging. I
really hope it expresses the genuine, sincere goodwill of the
21, 2003—UN special envoy Razali Ismail tells Reuters he is frustrated
by the lack of progress in the dialogue in Burma and expresses concern
that he has not been invited to the country in five months.
23, 2003—During a news conference at NLD headquarters Aung San Suu Kyi
voices her strongest criticism of the regime since her release from
house arrest. "They don’t want change, but change is inevitable," she
says. "If the SPDC is truly interested in the welfare of this country,
they should cooperate with the NLD. I’d like to ask why the SPDC
doesn’t contact the NLD." Suu Kyi also tells the press that she was
harassed by officials on her recent visits to supporters outside
29, 2003—Razali Ismail expresses frustration with the Burmese
government’s reluctance to allow him to visit the country in order to
jumpstart the dialogue process. "I am perplexed and disappointed," he
said during a visit to Bangkok. "I thought I was a good friend to all
parties so I really cannot understand why I am being denied access." UN
officials say the ruling regime has invented a stream of excuses to
rationalize why it is not a convenient time for Razali to visit.
also comments on Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent criticisms of the junta,
saying, "The dialogue now seems to be with the media, not the
diplomats. The exchange should not be in the public domain but behind
closed doors." A senior Western diplomat in Rangoon says that the
dialogue is "becoming a war of words."
4, 2003—Two days before the one-year anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s
release from house arrest, the military regime releases 18 political
prisoners. Dr Salia Tun Than, a prominent retired professor, and 12 NLD
members are among those set free. The junta releases a statement saying
"health and humanitarian concerns" governed their choice of whom to
release. It also says, "The releases are the latest in a series of
efforts by the government to move Myanmar closer to multiparty
democracy and national reconciliation." Almost all released were told
they were prohibited from engaging in future political activities.
6, 2003—On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Aung San Suu
Kyi’s release from house arrest, the US State Department releases a
statement calling on Rangoon to make progress toward national
reconciliation. It says, "It is past time for the people of Burma to
enjoy basic rights and economic development. We call on the regime to
take its own declarations seriously and move on towards the restoration
of multiparty democracy." The statement also criticizes the regime’s
treatment of prisoners and says the junta "has failed to work in good
faith" with UN special envoy Razali Ismail.
On the same day, Dr Myint Cho of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma is interviewed by Radio Singapore International.
He says that the dialogue remains stalled because the regime "has no
real commitment to improving human rights or bringing about political
change in Burma." He is also critical of the engagement policy of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, saying, "We believe the only
language the military regime can understand is international pressure."
6, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi leaves Rangoon for a one-month trip to Kachin
State, Mandalay and Sagaing Division. It will be her longest trip since
being released from house arrest a year ago and her first visit to
Kachin State since 1989. She and NLD chairman U Tin Oo plan to open
several NLD offices in Kachin State.
15, 2003—Burmese government spokesperson Col Hla Min announces that the
regime has given Razali Ismail permission to return to the country. He
will arrive in Rangoon on June 6 for a four-day visit, his tenth since
taking the post in April 2000.
16, 2003—The NLD convoy encounters nearly 300 members of the pro-junta
Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) just outside the Kachin
State capital of Myitkyina. NLD spokesperson U Lwin tells news agencies
that the group, armed with catapults and small objects such as bicycle
nuts, tried to keep Aung San Suu Kyi’s vehicle from crossing a bridge
into Myitkyina. "They were just showing their force, and our people
suggested that they open the road," said U Lwin. "Finally they moved
away." He calls the stand-off "the most serious incident" of Aung San
Suu Kyi’s trip thus far. No injuries are reported.
17, 2003—The US extends its ban on investment in Burma for another
year, and refuses to lift the national emergency designation on Burma.
A notice signed by President Bush said that the actions and policies of
the Burmese regime "continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary
threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United
States, the national emergency…must continue." Burma’s military rulers
respond by calling US fears of a threat from the Burmese government
"odd" and "imaginary" and by asking the US join them in development
20, 2003—Sec-1 Gen Khin Nyunt, Burma’s intelligence chief, reportedly
tells Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai that talks between
the military regime and Aung San Suu Kyi will start within weeks.
Surakiart announces the news to reporters after the pair meets on the
Thai-Burma border near Tachilek. The Thai minister says that Khin Nyunt
told him the date of the start of talks, but he does not disclose the
26, 2003—Burma’s military rulers deny reports of possible talks with
the opposition. Military intelligence officer Col Than Tun tells
reporters: "It could be an exaggeration by the media. I don’t think the
General [Khin Nyunt] himself would have said that."
the same day, NLD spokesperson U Lwin tells the Associated Press that a
dozen vehicles full of USDA members came towards Suu Kyi’s car as she
was entering a village in Upper Burma, where she planned to meet
supporters. According to U Lwin, USDA members shouted at the crowds
through loudspeakers: "Run for your lives, or you will have to pick up
your own corpses!" He adds: "This is a most serious incident. These
people are very rowdy. They bully the public and are extremely unruly."
30, 2003—The convoy carrying Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior NLD
members is attacked by USDA members near Depayin Township in Sagaing
Division. The regime reports that four people are killed and 50
injured. Witness accounts suggest that Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo
sustained injuries and that many more people were killed. Suu Kyi and U
Tin Oo are taken into what the regime calls "protective custody." All
senior NLD officers are placed under house arrest, party offices are
closed and the party’s phone lines are cut.
1-2, 2003—Government leaders around the globe call for the release of
Aung San Suu Kyi. Officials from the US, UK, Canada, France, Australia,
Japan, Thailand and numerous other nations express concern over the
detention of the opposition leader. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
says the recent events "underline the urgent need for national
reconciliation" in Burma.
5, 2003—A new bill to increase sanctions and tighten the visa ban on
Burmese military officials is introduced in the US Congress.
the same day, Kyaw Win, Burma’s ambassador to Britain tells the BBC:
"There is no evidence we are worried about sanctions. Not that we want
them, but we are not afraid of them either because we have lived for 26
years on our own before, and we have very good neighbors around us and
we can simply trade and exchange relations with our close, good
neighbors. We have the two largest countries of the world on either
side who are happily trading and exchanging all kinds of technical,
transportation, security measures [with Burma] and we are living in
harmony with all of them."
6, 2003— UN special envoy Razali Ismail arrives in Rangoon, unsure if
he will be able to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been kept
incommunicado at an undisclosed location since being taken into custody
on May 30.
9, 2003—Razali reports that he is likely to see jailed Burmese
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following day, after intensive
talks with the country’s two top junta leaders. Razali says there is a
"strong likelihood" that he will be permitted to see the popular
opposition leader before he completes his five-day mission to Rangoon.
10, 2003—Razali meets with Suu Kyi in Rangoon for 30 minutes. The UN
special envoy tells reporters the opposition leader was "well and in
good spirits" and that there were "no scratches on her face" and that
she had "no broken arm." He reports that Suu Kyi gave him her version
of the Black Friday clash in Upper Burma on May 30. "Now we have to
work for her release from protective custody," he says.
11, 2003—The US Senate votes 97-1 to approve a new set of sanctions
against Burma. If passed by the US House and signed by President Bush,
the bill would ban imports of anything mined, made, grown or assembled
in Burma; freeze Burmese government assets held in the United States;
bar former and present leaders, their families and close associates
from traveling to the US; and require the Treasury Department to oppose
World Bank or International Monetary Fund loans.
16, 2003—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations breaks with a
longstanding policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of
member states and criticizes Burma over Suu Kyi’s detention. "All of us
in Asean wish that Aung San Suu Kyi will be free to be able to do what
she would like to do," Asean Secretary General Ong Keng Yong told
reporters during a two-day meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Phnom
June 18, 2003—Aung San Suu Kyi spends her 58th
birthday in detention. British Foreign Officer Mike O’Brien tells the
BBC she is being held in the notorious Insein Prison, outside Rangoon.
He does not elaborate how he discovered her exact whereabouts.
Supporters worldwide mark Suu Kyi’s birthday with protests calling for
25, 2003—Japan freezes all foreign aid to Burma to punish the military
government for its detention of the opposition leader. The move comes
two days after Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano returned from
a mission to Rangoon, hoping to secure Suu Kyi’s release. Japan is
Burma’s largest aid donor.
July 5-8, 2003—The state-run New Light of Myanmar runs a four-part series of articles criticizing Suu Kyi and the NLD.
15, 2003—The US House of Representatives votes 418-2 to pass its
version of the economic sanctions bill on Burma. The military rulers in
Rangoon describe the measures as "weapons of mass destruction." Their
official statement says sanctions threaten needed jobs and stop the
flow of ideas.
2003—Burmese envoys are sent to China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand,
India, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Japan, carrying letters that
accuse democracy activists of trying to overthrow the government.
17, 2003—Thailand proposes a "road map" for democratic change in Burma.
No details of the plan are given, but Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart
Sathirathai says he proposed the idea during meetings with the junta.
Surakiart says Bangkok would "like to see a clear cut plan that Myanmar
announces to the world on its process to democracy, when it will
release Suu Kyi and when it will have a constitution." Members of the
military government do not comment on the plan.
20, 2003— Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warns that Burma
might have to be expelled from Asean if the junta continues to detain
Suu Kyi. Speaking in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Mahathir
says: "We will have to examine every avenue before we can take such
drastic actions…We are thinking about ourselves as Asean, we are not
criticizing Myanmar for doing what is not related to us, but what they
have done has affected us, our credibility."
24, 2003—Foreign ministers from Europe and Asia release a statement
saying Burma should release Suu Kyi immediately and resume efforts
towards democracy. The statement is issued after the Asia-Europe
Meeting in Indonesia.
26, 2003— A commentary published in all three of Burma’s state-run
newspapers says the country was deprived of a parliamentary democracy
because Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy withdrew from a
constitution-drafting process in 1995. If the NLD had not walked away,
"there would not have been any political conflict, no problem of
political prisoners, nor any refugee problem and a new constitution
could have emerged since 1995-96 and so would have the parliamentary
democratic administration," says the article.
27, 2003—Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung tells reporters upon
arriving in Indonesia, "I can’t see a timeframe" for releasing the
detained opposition leader.
29, 2003— US President George W Bush signs the Burma Freedom and
Democracy Act of 2003, enacting a host of sanctions aimed at promoting
democracy in Burma and securing the release of Suu Kyi. The new law
bans all Burmese imports to the US and freezes the US assets of Burmese
officials and bans remittances to Burma. It also asks US
representatives to vote against any major international loans to Burma,
and expands visa restrictions to family members of high-ranking
government officials and members of the Union Solidarity Development
31, 2003— UN special rapporteur on human rights to Burma, Paulo Sergio
Pinheiro, says his mandate may be in jeopardy unless the junta makes
more progress on human rights. Pinheiro makes the comments during an
interview with Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service. The continued
detention of Suu Kyi and hundreds of other political prisoners
complicates his discussions about improving human rights. "If I don’t
see any development in the [political prisoner] situation, I will be
obliged to revise my commitment to this mandate," Pinheiro says.
21, 2003—China’s State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan says his country’s
leaders believe the domestic situation in Burma is an internal affair
and the Chinese disagree with foreign interference in the matter. He
makes the comments after meeting with Deputy Sr-Gen Maung Aye.
25, 2003—The ruling SPDC reshuffles its cabinet positions. Gen Khin
Nyunt replaces Sr-Gen Than Shwe as Prime Minister. Than Shwe remains
head of the armed forces and the ruling junta. Rangoon-based diplomats
say it is unclear what impact the reshuffle will have on the detention
of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
August 28, 2003—US sanctions on Burma take effect.
30, 2003—In his first public speech as Prime Minister, Gen Khin Nyunt
spells out "The Road Map of Myanmar" designed by the ruling junta. The
seven-point plan calls for reconvening the National Convention,
drafting a new constitution and holding free and fair elections. No
timetable for its implementation is given, but in his speech he warns,
"It is very difficult to change overnight into a democratic state." He
also blames the NLD for the collapse of the National Convention in
1996, saying: "The NLD turned away from the political path and took the
attitude that it would do whatever it liked. Because of this,
democracy, which was almost at hand, has become distant again."
31, 2003—The US releases a statement saying it has learned that Suu Kyi
was on a hunger strike "to protest her illegal detention by [the]
military regime." It includes no other details about her condition and
does not identify the source of the information, saying only that it
came from "credible reporting from our embassy."
1, 2003—The Burmese Foreign Ministry responds to the hunger strike
claim by calling it "groundless." Its statement calls the US claim
about Suu Kyi "an attempt to overshadow recent political developments
in Burma, in particular the road map to democracy."
6, 2003—Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross
visit Suu Kyi to verify the US State Department report that she is
refusing food. After meeting for about an hour, Red Cross officials
confirm that the pro-democracy leader is "well" and not on a hunger
strike, but refuse to release details of her location.
8, 2003—UN special envoy Razali Ismail abandons plans to visit Burma in
mid-September. He urges the international community to give the
military rulers more time to implement their new road map. Razali’s
statement says the plan is the "right thing to do," and adds that Khin
Nyunt deserves a chance to accomplish his goals. "We hope that this
proposal is the precursor, the beginning of a healing process that will
bring about the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other parties," he
Information compiled from The Irrawaddy archives, wire services and UN reports.
UPDATED IN FEBRUARY 2004