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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Burma's long road ahead
Aung San Suu Kyi visiting Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon on the day of her release, 6 May 2002
All eyes are now on Aung San Suu Kyi
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By Larry Jagan
BBC Burma analyst in Bangkok
Burma's generals have released the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but concern remains about how serious the military is about political reform.

Members of the National League for Democracy are obviously ecstatic that their leader has been released, but now the initial euphoria is subsiding there are questions about where the dialogue process goes from here.

General Than Shwe
The generals remain as secretive as ever
Aung San Suu Kyi has been holding secretive United Nations-brokered talks with the generals since October 2000.

"Both sides agree that the confidence-building phase is now over," Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters in Rangoon following her release.

"The authorities have said they look forward to moving to a more significant stage of the talks."

The NLD spokesman said no meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals had yet been arranged but the opposition leader was keen to meet with them as soon as possible.

It is unclear how keen the military regime is on the idea.

Key demand

Aung San Suu Kyi is certainly convinced that there are no restrictions on her movement or her political activity. She is adamant that the agreement which finally produced her release after nearly 20 months under house arrest in no way comprises either her ideals or her party's.

The military government expects to be rewarded for freeing her

The NLD position on all issues, including its demand that the generals recognise its landslide 1990 election victory, remains unchanged, the opposition leader told journalists.

In practise that does not mean there may not be future changes to policy.

Aung San Suu Kyi's first practical concern is to revitalise the NLD. The first task will be to re-open the rest of party offices in Rangoon, and then the divisional offices throughout the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her party's top leaders plan to visit these offices in due course, but not immediately.

Diplomats say those planned visits will be a real test of how committed the military is to allowing the NLD to function properly. It was Aung San Suu Kyi's attempts to travel outside Rangoon in 2000 that prompted the military to return her to house arrest, having freed her in 1995.

Wooing allies

Since the secret talks between the opposition leader and the generals started nearly 20 months ago, there has been pressure to involve Burma's various ethnic groups. Aung San Suu Kyi has been particularly concerned about how to involve them.

Sealed road outside Aung San Suu Kyi's home, 3 May 2002
Aung San Suu Kyi believes all restrictions have been lifted
She also wants to develop a broad movement for democracy, involving, as she put, all democratic parties.

The NLD - as the largest party on the basis of the 1990 election results - would remain at the centre of the new movement.

The NLD has maintained good contacts with the ethnic political parties, and Aung San Suu Kyi has already briefed the leaders of four - the Shan, Mon, Arakanese and Chin.

Bargaining chip

The future may depend on how the international community responds to Aung San Suu Kyi's release. The military government expects to be rewarded for freeing her with the resumption of humanitarian aid.

There is no doubt some countries are keen to do so. But most will want to hear Aung San Suu Kyi's views on the matter before proceeding.

The opposition leader said in her first news conference after her release that the NLD did not oppose limited humanitarian aid provided it reached those in need and did not line the pockets of the military.

But she hinted that this was an area that might figure prominently in any future discussions with the generals.

"I want to help to make life better for the people of Burma," she told journalists.

There's no doubt that most people in Burma are struggling to survive and want a change.

"Let's hope Aung San Suu Kyi's release will make a difference to our lives," said a young taxi driver in Rangoon.

But though the opposition leader is free, the military is still in control and its leaders do not appear to be in any hurry to introduce real change.

See also:

07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Suu Kyi presses on for reform
06 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
World welcomes Suu Kyi release
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