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Burma Probes Alleged Coup Plot by Former Dictator - 2002-03-18

The Burmese government says 100 people are being questioned in connection with an alleged coup plot by the family of former dictator Ne Win. Ne Win and his daughter have yet to be interrogated but appear to have been placed under virtual house arrest.

Burma's Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence Kyaw Win told reporters Monday that former military strong man Ne Win and his daughter, Sandar Win, were not under house arrest. But he said they are not allowed visitors under the present circumstances.

The official added that so far 100 people have been questioned as part of the reported plot to overthrow the government.

Burmese authorities 10 days ago arrested Sandar Win's husband and three sons and fired the air force and police chiefs in connection with the plot.

They say members of the Ne Win family were unhappy over a loss of privileges and that they planned to kidnap the three senior leaders of the ruling military council and force them to back a new government.

General Ne Win ruled Burma for 25 years, during which time the country sank into isolation and poverty. He was replaced in 1988 by the current military government but retained considerable influence.

The latest developments follow a three-day visit by delegates from the European Union preparing which is preparing to review its sanctions on Burma.

EU delegation chief, Spanish diplomat Rafel Conde, says they were assured by government officials and opposition leaders that reconciliation talks would not be affected by the reported plot.

Mr. Conde did acknowledge that some Burmese opposition groups would like to see more rapid progress in the talks between the government and the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The talks began in October, 2000, under the initiative of U.N. envoy Razali Ismail.

The government and opposition have been locked in a political stalemate since 1990, when the military refused to hand over power after the opposition won elections by a landslide. The Opposition National League for Democracy has since been subjected to repressive measures, including imprisonment.

Some of the tensions eased after the talks began, but there has been no solid indication that there has been any progress on moves toward democracy. The military government is reportedly split over how far to compromise with the opposition.