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Burmese Leader Promises Progress on Reforms

Burma's prime minister has said the country will proceed with democratic reforms, but gave no indication of when opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be freed from house arrest. The comments came at a meeting with the leaders of Thailand and Laos.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says his Burmese counterpart assured him that the Rangoon will proceed with a national convention on political reform.

Burma's Prime Minister Soe Win, however, indicated that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, would remain under house arrest for now.

Mr. Thaksin said Thursday that Soe Win complained that the three times the military government released Aung San Suu Kyi, there were problems. The comment apparently was in reference to rallies by her supporters and Aung San Suu Kyi's efforts to meet with other members of her party. She has been under house arrest this time for nearly 18 months, and has spent most of the past 14 years in confinement.

The Thai prime minister, accompanied by Lao Prime Minister Bounnyang Vorachit, met with Soe Win Thursday on the sidelines of an international gathering of Buddhist leaders in Rangoon. Mr. Thaksin made his comments to reporters shortly after returning to Bangkok.

The national convention, part of Burma's seven-point road map toward democracy, met for two months earlier this year. The ruling generals say it will reopen in February. Last week, the government told Asian leaders that it was committed to reform, despite a leadership shakeup that strengthened the power of hard-line generals.

The Burmese government also says it will continue negotiations with once rebellious ethnic groups that have signed peace agreements with Rangoon. But it has not said whether it will resume talks with the largest group still in open rebellion, the Karen National Union or K.N.U.

K.N.U. Chairman Pado Pathing told VOA's Burmese Service this week that his group is prepared to resume the talks, but is waiting to hear from


"We would like to reach some kind of agreement for the political settlement, especially for the Karen people and the future, politically," he said.

The K.N.U. leader noted that his group and the government have reached a gentleman's agreement on a cease-fire, which has largely held. He said he wants to move toward a political settlement, which he believes will end the long war with the government.

Chairman Pado said, however, that his group is not likely to attend the national convention when it reopens.