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UN Diplomat Continues Efforts to Advance Burma's Political Dialogue

A United Nations diplomat has hopes of moving political dialogue forward in Burma, after meetings with the Rangoon government and an opposition leader.

U.N. envoy Razali Ismail talked with Burmese military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt. He also met Wednesday with Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the opposition, the National League for Democracy, or NLD, at her home. She has been held under virtual house arrest since late 2000.

Mr. Razali later told foreign business leaders in Rangoon that he hopes to encourage the government to resume its dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi's party within a few weeks.

Burma has been under military control since 1962. Since then, the once robust economy has stalled under a form of socialism.

The military has been under international pressure to open dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi since the NLD won landslide elections in 1990. The military refused to accept the vote and imprisoned many opposition members. Nearly two years ago, Mr. Razali began brokering talks between the government and the opposition. So far, the talks have resulted in the release of about 200 opposition members from jail.

Professor Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong from Bangkok's Chualongkorn University, says the time may be approaching for the generals to accept political reform.

"I think it can come out soon, probably by the middle or end of this year, because as I said Razali's term is finishing, and he will probably try to push it ahead and try to get it done before he leaves office," Professor Chaiyachoke said.

He said the support of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad for Mr. Razali's effort also pressures Rangoon to re-open talks. Mr. Razali is a retired Malaysian diplomat.

Mr. Razali meets with the government's leader, Than Shwe, Thursday before departing Burma on Friday.