False dawn?

Following on from press speculation a week or two ago, there was renewed optimism in some weekend press reports that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released from house arrest in order that she might participate in the National Convention to discuss a new constitution (scheduled to commence on May 17). Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles that need to be negotiated before this can happen, and given the track record of the military junta in Burma, this optimism might prove to be unfounded.

The Irrawaddy reported yesterday that the military has declared its intention to hold the upcoming National Convention in accordance with its previous objectives, the same objectives that brought proceedings to a grinding halt the last time there was a convention in the mid 1990s. Significantly, this announcement came just three days after the National League for Democracy (NLD) released a statement that should the same procedure and rules be adopted, it would not be appropriate for them to attend. While the UN and the likes of US and the EU have increased the pressure on the Burmese government in recent years, China and ASEAN continue to turn a blind eye. If ASEAN were to suspend Burma’s membership, the isolation might just be too much to bear (see Regime unchanged, in The Economist, 9 October 2003).