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Burma Links Aung San Suu Kyi to Alleged Assassination Plot - 2003-07-26

Burma's military rulers appear to be digging in their heels against international pressure to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They have indirectly linked her to an alleged assassination plot, they have spurned a reconciliation plan offered by neighboring Thailand, and they continue a campaign to discredit her in the press.

Burma announced the arrest of 12 people charged with plotting to sabotage the government by assassinating officials.

A spokesman said the group was trying to link up with the democratic opposition in Burma in a bid to seize power. He said the group was responsible for a recent series of bomb explosions around the country that killed two people and injured dozens. He also suggested Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy might have been involved in the plot, which began in late 2002. Aung San Suu Kyi and dozens of NLD members have been in jail since May 30, when their motorcade was attacked by government supporters in Northern Burma. Persistent calls to release her have come from the international community, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, but have failed to move the government. Burma's neighbor, Thailand, has attempted to mediate between Rangoon and the international community, asking the Burmese leaders to sit down with their foreign critics to draw up a "road map" to reconciliation. But on Saturday, leaders in Rangoon rejected that suggestion, saying they had been given no details of the road map, and that this was an internal problem that must be solved without outside help.

Aung Zaw, the editor of the exile magazine Irawaddy, says the refusal to seize on the Thai suggestion shows Rangoon is not interested in dialogue with the opposition.

"The government has no political will to engage in meaningful political dialogue with the opposition of Aung San Suu Kyi… The government is going its own way. It seems to me they have no will to negotiate, to listen to the European Union, ASEAN, or international governments," he said.

Burma's state-controlled press meanwhile continued a campaign to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi, blaming her for lack of progress towards democracy in Burma.

The news media also blamed her and the National League for Democracy for the clash on May 30. Rights groups say as many as 70 people were killed in the incident, while the government says only four died.