30 September 1998


30 September 1998

Press Briefing



"If a disastrous confrontation is to be averted in Burma, the United Nations must support the efforts of the democratic forces in Burma to seek a non-violent negotiated solution", Dr. Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, said at a Headquarters press briefing sponsored by the Mission of Denmark this afternoon.

[The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma was formed as a provisional Government in 1991 by members of the National League for Democracy. Some 200 National League for Democracy leaders who had been elected into office in 1990, were arrested and detained by the present Government of Myanmar. National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, put under house arrest by the present Government, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.]

The country's economy was in a state of collapse, except for the heroin trade, which was protected by the junta, he said. Universities had remained closed since 1996 "because", he said "the generals are afraid of the nation's children". He also noted that AIDS was spreading because the regime would not acknowledge the threat, and the military committed atrocities, as a result of which refugees flowed out while sophisticated weapons and drug profits flowed in. The National League for Democracy and its allied parties remained committed to a non-violent struggle, he said, but the time of waiting was drawing to a close.

Despite repeated resolutions adopted in the past eight years by the United Nations General Assembly, the Government of Myanmar had failed to comply with them and to begin a political dialogue, said Thaung Htun, Representative of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma for United Nations Affairs. A Special Rapporteur for Myanmar had been appointed two years ago, but that Government had not allowed the Rapporteur to visit Myanmar to carry out the mandate of the Organization. He called for Assembly resolutions that would carry an "action-oriented" clause to pressure the Government into initiating substantive political dialogue for the sake of national reconciliation.

Citing examples of "action-oriented" measures, he called on Member States to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, which was buying more weapons than it needed or could afford clearly to oppress its own people -- since it had no external enemy. He called for a discontinuance of the special privileges that Myanmar gained from its status as a least developed country. He also called for all Member States to follow the lead of the United States in imposing trade sanctions on Myanmar. The informal consultative mechanism should be transformed into a formal consultative body to coordinate an international strategy to restore democracy to Myanmar, he said.

To a correspondent's question of whether the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma was threatening to resort to violence if there was no political dialogue, Mr. Htun said non-violence did not mean a pacific movement. The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma had passed two significant statements: one, calling for the unjust laws passed by the current Government to be revoked, and two, stating that in the face of mounting popular dissatisfaction, including that of high school and university students, there were increasing "hit and run" demonstrations. He warned that a nationwide uprising like that of 1988 could happen if the Government continued to refuse to hold dialogue with the National League for Democracy.

Asked whether the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma was advocating physical resistance, Mr. Win said the situation was "explosive" and could get out of control. A lot depended on the action of the current Government. He said that, some time soon, the legitimately elected parliamentarians would convene, and when that happened, the military regime would be responsible for all the consequences -- since they were pushing it. He said, "But we will not sit and wait for the military to convene the parliament. We will do what we have to".

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For information media. Not an official record.