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Burma: Talks With Aung San Suu Kyi Will Continue

In Burma, officials say talks between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will continue despite what they say was a plot to overthrow the government.

A top military intelligence officer, Kyaw Win, Tuesday told reporters that Burma's military leaders are ready to carry on the talks. He says the reported plot will not affect the discussions with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese officials Tuesday said the suspects have confessed that they planned to kidnap the three senior leaders of the ruling council. They say the plotters were unhappy over a loss of privileges. Security forces last Thursday arrested the husband and three children of the daughter of former ruler Ne Win. After ruling for 25 years, General Ne Win stepped down in 1988, but continued to wield considerable influence. The Burmese leadership also implicated and sacked the heads of the air force and police and the commander of the so-called Golden Triangle bordering Thailand and Laos.

Political observers say the arrests send mixed signals. Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong is a professor of international relations at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. He said the arrests might be related to a power struggle between the second-ranking official on the ruling council, Army Chief Maung Aye, and the third-ranking official, Intelligence Chief Khin Nyunt. Professor Chaiyachoke said he thinks General Khin Nyunt is rising in the power structure, but might face challenges from government hard-liners. "Khin Nyunt has been purging a number of people for the past two or three years now and this might be one of his works in order to remove those people in opposition to him," he said.

Burmese officials say there is no division within the leadership.

Political observers also say the arrests may be related to reconciliation talks between the military leadership and the pro-democracy party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A delegation from the European Union is due in Burma Wednesday. The group is expected to press the leadership to speed up the negotiations.

Professor Chaiyachoke said Burmese dissidents tell him, however, they are pleased with the progress of the talks. He said the pace is understandable. "I would say this is the Asian way of doing things, but we have to understand that Khin Nyunt is not totally in full power or has full authorities of [over] the country," he said. "Therefore he probably has to take a bit more time."

The professor noted some Burmese leaders resist moves toward a civilian democracy. As a result, he says the moderates must consolidate power before the dialogue can progress more quickly.