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Suu Kyi Begins Rebuilding Burma's Pro-Democracy Movement - 2002-05-07

Aung San Suu Kyi, fresh from 19 months of house detention, began the process Tuesday of rebuilding Burma's pro-democracy movement. But diplomats and analysts said further reforms that would justify the lifting of international sanctions are going to be slow in coming.

Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, marked her first full day of freedom by setting about to rebuild Burma's pro-democracy movement. She also met with diplomats from Europe and the United States at her University Avenue residence.

The United States and the European Union have imposed trade and economic sanctions against Burma to force the military government to carry out democratic reforms. Aung San Suu Kyi said on her release Monday she has not changed her mind on opposing the lifting of the sanctions until the government takes further steps toward democracy.

Human rights organizations, such as the ASEAN Network In Burma, also said the military government needs to do much more before the easing of sanctions could be even considered.

Debbie Stothard is a spokeswoman for the Network. She said, "In order to get to a stage where the dismantling of sanctions can be even considered there has to happen the release of political prisoners, an opening in the national media in Burma, discussion of Aung San Suu Kyi's release, the [confidence building] talks, national reconciliation, and also for the SPDC [the military government] to call for a national cease-fire so the ethnic nationality groups can be included in the talks."

Ms. Stothard said the international community is "unlikely" to reward the military government by easing sanctions until such measures as the release of political prisoners have taken place. Human rights groups said more than 1,200 political prisoners remain in Burma's jails.

"The SPDC has a long way to go. I think releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and expecting the whole world to shift is at this stage a little too little and a little too late," she said.

Rangoon-based diplomats told VOA they are not optimistic the military government is prepared to take further steps in the near future to open the political process to opposition.

The military government itself has warned against any haste in the reform process, citing internal civil strife within the country's multi-ethnic community.