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Indonesian Government Attempts to Stop Burma Democracy Meeting

Burmese democracy leaders have successfully concluded a meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta to push a plan for transition to democracy in Burma. The Indonesian government earlier attempted to prevent the conference from taking place, dispatching local police to the hotel where the delegations had planned to meet.

Members of the Burmese government in exile and a coalition of pro-democracy groups and ethnic leaders came to Jakarta to officially launch their 'Proposal for National Reconciliation' in Burma, an alternative to the current regime's so-called "roadmap to democracy."

Indonesian Parliamentary member Eva Kusuma Sunardi was among those who lent their support to the conference. She says the department of foreign affairs was given several weeks notice of the conference and made no objections, until a letter arrived from the embassy of Burma, which now calls itself Myanmar.

"On the 4th of August the foreign ministry accepted a letter, the objection letter from the embassy of Myanmar, asking the foreign ministry to stop this event on the argument that this is illegal and it will potentially damage the relationship between the two countries," Eva Kusuma Sunardi. "So the foreign ministry asked the police actually using the letter from the Myanmar embassy."

But Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said his government's objections had nothing to do with the letter from Burma.

"As a matter of principle the Indonesian government cannot allow its territory to be used for activities by the so-called government in exile while Indonesia and other ASEAN countries as well as the members of the United Nations recognize Myanmar as well as the government of Myanmar. So it's not in our tradition to allow such political activities, political campaigns in our territory," the spokesman said.

Despite police threats to lock the delegation out of their hotel meeting room, the Burmese delegation continued their program at alternative venues in the capital Jakarta, including Indonesia's House of Representatives.

They met with Indonesian political leaders, diplomats and civil society groups to share their 'Proposal for National Reconciliation'.

Presented as an alternative to the Burmese regime's so-called roadmap to democracy, their plan demands the immediate release of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, a nationwide ceasefire with rebel groups and a review of the 2008 constitution.

Burma's Prime Minister in exile Sein Winn was asked about the demands and said they must be met and a dialogue begun before next year's elections. "This election is tied to the constitution. And this constitution making process as well as the results are so biased and screwed [up] that according to this constitution, we will never get democracy," he said.

VOA: Assuming the regime or if the regime doesn't yield to your demands in this transition plan, will you participate in the elections in some capacity?

Sein Winn: "No, no, we will not participate as it is. That is why we are saying we have to review the constitution; you have to release the political prisoners. This is the bottom line."

But Jason Abbott, a specialist on Southeast Asian politics at Britain's University of Surrey, says the refusal of leaders of Burma's democracy movement to negotiate on certain points, particularly the question of Aung San Suu Kyi's participation is also thwarting progress.

"While it may be significant that so many groups are coming together for this meeting this week, until there is a change in their demands that shows a willingness to compromise with the regime, then it's only going to continue to be ignored by the junta. There will be no dialogue until there is movement from one side, the junta doesn't need to revise the constitution, the junta doesn't need to change the rules of the election, it will go ahead," he said.

The exiled leaders conceded that the military junta is unlikely to yield to their demands. They urged the United Nations Security Council to draft a binding resolution on Burma and for partners at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to exert more pressure on the Burmese leadership.