Monday, November 26, 2007

Can Burma's military be won over?

I spoke with pro-democracy strategist Zaw Nyein Latt, chairman of the Burma Political Prisoner's Union, who says winning over military figures is an integral part of the plan to bring democracy to Burma.
Continued from this jot about my interview with ZNL. . .

ZNL: There are so many steps remaining before (we should pursue) dialogue. Before making dialogue between SLOC (the Burmese junta) and Aung San Suu Kyi. There should be some steps to prepare for the discussions. So many steps remain.

JOTMAN: You want to impose a time table. You want various steps taken. But what if the Burmese regime says no, no, no. . . no we won’t meet your deadline, no we don’t release your prisoners, then what?

ZNL: Yes. Yes, we have a plan to continue our activities. If the government refuses our ideas and sincere suggestions to them – if they refused – there are so many ways --

JOTMAN: Like what? What are you going to do?

ZNL: We are discussing within our organizations -- discussing with each other -- our plan to continue if the government refuses our suggestions. . . (There will be) new demonstrations in Burma. And we will organize the soldiers. We will organize the army leaders. Some junior leaders --such as lieutenant colonel and so on -- we will pursue them to join with us.

Is that something you are working on now?

Yeah, now. Right now.

JOTMAN: Are there contacts being made with the Burmese military now?

Yeah, right now. This time is very early to say much about it. But we have already contacted with senior and junior officers in the army. Some of them are my friends. We schooled at the same school. We attended at the same classes when we were young. Now they are generals in the army. But they don’t dare to openly --

You know the Burmese army is very strict. There are so many military intelligence inside every unit. So they don’t dare . . .

When we announce that negotiation is needed for the country, the government should meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, there may be two groups within the army.

Some military leaders want to negotiate with Aung San Suu Kyi, and some do not. There may be some confrontation within the army, you know. If we put one idea into the same group – they may be divided into 2, or 3, or 4 pieces. One piece will join us. And they (will) ask their own general to do like this, not to do like that, and so on.

There are three military groups: army, navy and air force. Some army officers, some navy officers, some air force officers, don’t want to accept the ideas of the General Than Shwe.

But we secretly join them, from the riflemen to the general. Whoever we can contact. We have already prepared to contact with them.

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