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Burmese Opposition Leader Advocates Continuation of Sanctions - 2003-02-19

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said tough economic sanctions against Burma must continue until the military government begins meaningful dialog with the political opposition. The comment was relayed through Nobel laureate Jody Williams.

It was a meeting between two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize: Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burma's political opposition, and Jody Williams, who won the prize for her work to eradicate the use of land mines.

Ms. Williams had a 90 minute talk with Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside residence in Rangoon. In an interview with VOA, she said the opposition leader remained adamant that international economic sanctions against Burma must remain in place.

Ms. Williams quoted her fellow Nobel laureate as saying that only tough sanctions can force Burma's military government to begin true political reform. "The position of the [opposition] party remains that economic sanctions should be in place against the government, that tourists should not come to the country unless and until there is meaningful dialogue. That countries should not invest in Burma - and if they are there they should leave unless and until there is meaningful dialogue," she said.

A number of countries, including the United States, and the European Union have placed tough sanctions against Burma in hopes that they will lead to serious talks between the government and the opposition National League for Democracy.

The military has held power since 1962. In 1990, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, but the military refused to hand over power. Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to travel was limited, and she spent much of the past decade under house arrest.

She was released from 18-months of house detention in May of last year, and despite some initial optimism and consistent lobbying by the world community, there have been few signs of movement towards political reform.

Ms. Williams said Aung San Suu Kyi wants that outside pressure to be maintained. "She and the party have no doubt that the only reason that there has been movement by the government has been because of the internal and external pressure and called on people to continue that pressure; that without the pressure there would be no change," she said.

Ms. Williams said Aung San Suu Kyi was in favor of international humanitarian relief for Burma, as long as it was managed transparently and assisted only those truly in need.