NLD ဦးေလးၾကီးမ်ားေၾကာင့္ဗမာျပည္ဒီမုိကေရစီေႏွာင္းေႏွးေနရေၾကာင္းႏွင့္တုိင္းရင္းသားေတြကုိဒုတိယ တန္းစားဦးခ်ေတာင္းပန္သူမ်ားအျဖစ္အခန္းက႑ေလွ်ာ.ခ်ထားျခင္းဟုဝီကီလိခ္မွာေဖာ္ျပ
အန္ေအလ္ဒီအန္ကဲလ္ၾကီးမ်ားကုိဘာအျပစ္ေပးရင္ေကာင္းမလဲလုိ.စဥ္းစားေနတုန္းပဲဗ်ာ၊တုိင္းသူျပည္သားမ်ား ကုိ(၂၂)ႏွစ္ၾကာေအာင္ဒုကၡတြင္းထဲသုိ.ပုိ.ေဆာင္သည့္သူမ်ားအထဲမွာဒီလူေတြလည္းပါဝင္ေနတာေၾကာင့္သန္း ေရႊတုိ.နဲ.အျပစ္ဒဏ္ထပ္တူေပးသင့္မယ္ထင္တယ္၊တုိင္းရင္းသားအသံမွတ္မိပါတယ္၊ဟုိတစ္ခါက၊အန္အဲလ္ဒီအ ဖြဲ.ဝင္ညီလာခံေခၚယူေရးအတြက္အဖြဲ.သူအဖြဲ.ဝင္သားမ်ားေတာင္းဆုိလာသည့္အခါ ဦးေအာင္ေရႊကေမာင္သန္းေရႊဆီစာေရးျပီးခြင့္ေတာင္းခဲ့သည္ကုိစာဖတ္သူမ်ားလည္းမွတ္မိမယ္ထင္တယ္၊ေမာင္ သန္းေရႊကအေၾကာင္းမျပန္လုိ.ေစာင့္ရင္းေစာင့္ရင္းနဲ.ဘာမွမလုပ္ျဖစ္ခဲ့ပါ၊…ထပ္ေျပာျပရင္ရင္နာစရာေကာင္း လွပါဘိ၊ယုတ္မာလုိက္တာ…ထြီး..ထြီ..၊
The recent statement Aung San Suu Kyi released through UN Special Envoy Gambari indicated she is aware of this
problem and wants to rectify it. The overture she offered to the ethnic nationalities was welcomed by the cease-fire
group leaders with whom we spoke. But her party failed to follow up on her initiative and issued only a half-hearted
invitation for the ethnic leaders to visit them at NLD headquarters in Rangoon. Once again, they reduced the role of
the ethnics to second-class supplicants. The timing of ASSK’s statement was strategic: just before the referendum on
a constitution, which many of the cease-fire groups were unhappy with because the regime had failed to include key
compromises promised by former PM Khin Nyunt before his ouster. A genuine overture from the NLD offered the best
chance yet to split the cease-fire groups from the regime and undermine its credibility with its regional supporters.
The Uncles failed to use this opportunity, so the cease-fire groups continue their relationship with the regime.
Viewing cable 08RANGOON557, CONTINUING THE PURSUIT OF DEMOCRACY IN BURMA
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7905
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RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1345
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4870
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8433
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5995
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RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
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Monday, 14 July 2008, 06:56
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 RANGOON 000557
DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA
EO 12958 DECL: 07/13/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PHUM, BM
SUBJECT: CONTINUING THE PURSUIT OF DEMOCRACY IN BURMA
RANGOON 00000557 001.2 OF 004
Classified By: P/E Chief Leslie Hayden for Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)
¶1. (SBU) Embassy Rangoon pol/econ chief departs Post this week after ending a two-year tour that saw the largest
political uprising in Burma in twenty years, the arrest and imprisonment of the pro-democracy opposition’s most talented
leaders, and the worst natural disaster in Burma’s recorded history. We asked her to share her candid observations on
the current political situation, and her recommendations on how best to advance our democratic goals.
The Senior Generals
¶2. (C) The Burma army remains firmly in control throughout most of the country, with Senior General Than Shwe
retaining almost absolute power. He has the final word on all significant political and economic decisions. While outsiders
may portray him as an uneducated, crass, and blundering man, he has successfully consolidated and held onto power
for several years, while at the same time building lucrative relationships with his energy hungry neighbors that undermine
Western efforts to cripple his regime.
¶3. (C) The generals keep their power through a vast system of economic patronage, not unlike a Western style Mafia.
Military-owned enterprises control every profit-making natural resource and industry in the country. Economic prosperity
can only be enjoyed by rising thorough the ranks of the Army, or having extremely close ties to the senior generals. This
is why China’s urging to the generals to begin reforming Burma’s economy falls on deaf ears. Economic liberalization and
reform would require the generals to dismantle the very system that ensures their power. Dismantling this system will be
one of the biggest challenges for any future democratic leader of Burma.
¶4. (C) Rumors of splits at the top of the regime are the result of uninformed analysis and wishful thinking of the exiles
and outside observers. While the senior generals may disagree from time-to-time amongst themselves (as witnessed after
Nargis), they follow the orders of Than Shwe. The senior generals are keenly aware that if they do not stand together,
they will fall together. True democratic change will not likely happen until the top two generals, Than Shwe and Maung
Aye, are off the scene. Both are extremely concerned for the safety and financial security of themselves and their families.
Third-ranking general Thura Shwe Mann is rumored to be Than Shwe’s pick for Burma’s President in 2010, but if Than
Shwe and Maung Aye are still alive, they will likely pull his strings from behind the scenes. Sources close to Thura Shwe
Mann tell us he is smart, sophisticated, and well-aware of Burma’s problems. Some talented Burmese intellectuals and
political dissidents tell us they pass him policy papers that are reportedly solicited on his behalf. However, he is intimately
involved in Burma’s corruption, primarily through his sons’ business interests.
¶5. (C) Several of our sources close to high and mid-ranking military officers tell us that some of the regional commanders
are reform-minded and aware of the need for political and economic reform. However, most of the military believe that
working within Burma’s current military system is the only way to bring about this change while maintaining stability.
While some officers begrudgingly respect Aung San Suu Kyi, they do not sympathize with the pro-democracy opposition
in general. We should not expect an imminent coup to save us from the hard-line senior generals.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the Pro-Democracy Movement
¶6. (C) Since the September protests, the most dynamic and talented leaders of Burma’s pro-democracy movement
have been jailed, left the country, or remain in hiding. Tellingly, the NLD remain free. While many outside Burma
RANGOON 00000557 002.2 OF 004
impression of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party as a large movement with massive support
waiting to take the Parliamentary seats they won in the 1990 election, the reality is quite different. Without a doubt, Aung
San Suu Kyi remains a popular and beloved figure of the Burman majority, but this status is not enjoyed by her party.
Already frustrated with the sclerotic leadership of the elderly NLD “Uncles”, the party lost even more credibility within
the pro-democracy movement when its leaders refused to support the demonstrators last September, and even publicly
¶7. (C) Many of the younger political activists are turning away from the NLD and preparing to run in the 2010
parliamentary elections, to effect political change any way they can. This includes members of 88 Generation.
There is reportedly an ongoing, heated debate among the 88 Generation leaders in Insein prison on whether or not
the groups’ members should contest the election, with Ko Ko Gyi advocating members do so, and Min Ko Naing opting
for a boycott. Those who want to run tell us they do not agree with the new constitution and despise the regime’s
roadmap to democracy. However, with the absence of any alternative, they see the new Parliament as a possible
mechanism for dialogue between the military, the pro-democracy opposition, and the ethnic cease-fire groups.
¶8. (C) The way the Uncles run the NLD indicates the party is not the last great hope for democracy and Burma.
The Party is strictly hierarchical, new ideas are not solicited or encouraged from younger members, and the Uncles
regularly expel members they believe are “too active.” NLD youth repeatedly complain to us they are frustrated with
the party leaders. Repeated overtures from and “summits” with the leaders of the 88 Generation in 2007 failed to result in
any significant cooperation between the factions. Indeed, lack of unity among the pro-democracy opposition remains
one of the biggest obstacles to democratic change in Burma.
¶9. (C) The “Uncles” have repeatedly rebuffed the most dynamic and creative members of the pro-democracy opposition
, who reinvigorated the pro-democracy movement throughout 2006 and 2007 by strategically working to promote
change through grass-roots human rights and political awareness and highlighting the regime’s economic mismanagement
. Nor has the party made any effort to join forces with the technically sophisticated bloggers and young, internet-savvy
activists, who have been so clever at getting out the images which repeatedly damaged the regime and undermined its i
nternational credibility. Instead, the Uncles spend endless hours discussing their entitlements from the 1990 elections and
abstract policy which they are in no position to enact. XXXXXXXXXXXX Additionally, most MPs-elect show little concern for
the social and economic plight of most Burmese, and therefore, most Burmese regard them as irrelevant.
The Ethnic Cease-Fire Groups
¶10. (C) The cease-fire groups remain an important component of Burma’s future political stability and it is noteworthy
that none have chosen to support Aung San Suu Kyi and her party. Instead, they have entered dialogue with the regime,
at the same time cutting lucrative concession deals for many of groups’ leaders. However, many leaders of the cease-fire
groups have told us they would cast their lot with whomever best looked out for their interests. However badly the regime
does this, the NLD has repeatedly missed opportunities to reach out to the cease-fire groups to demonstrate that they would.
Instead, it has consistently issued statements calling for a dialogue between the NLD and regime first, before the ethnic cease-
fire groups are brought into the mix. They have also continually feuded with ethnic MPs-elect on the Committee to Represent
the People’s Parliament (CRPP).
RANGOON 00000557 003.2 OF 004
¶11. (C) It is these long-held ethnic tensions that has kept the cease-fire groups from defecting from their dialogue with the
regime to form an alliance with the NLD. Many of Burma’s neighbors, including China, are aware of the tension between the
NLD and the ethnic nationalities. The NLD’s continuing alienation of the ethnic minority groups gives credence to the regime’s
most effective argument with its neighbors and ASEAN: that the military is the only force capable of guaranteeing stability in Burma.
¶12. (C) The recent statement Aung San Suu Kyi released through UN Special Envoy Gambari indicated she is aware of this problem
and wants to rectify it. The overture she offered to the ethnic nationalities was welcomed by the cease-fire group leaders with whom
we spoke. But her party failed to follow up on her initiative and issued only a half-hearted invitation for the ethnic leaders to visit them
at NLD headquarters in Rangoon. Once again, they reduced the role of the ethnics to second-class supplicants. The timing of ASSK’s
statement was strategic: just before the referendum on a constitution, which many of the cease-fire groups were unhappy with
because the regime had failed to include key compromises promised by former PM Khin Nyunt before his ouster. A genuine overture
from the NLD offered the best chance yet to split the cease-fire groups from the regime and undermine its credibility with its regional
supporters. The Uncles failed to use this opportunity, so the cease-fire groups continue their relationship with the regime.
Where do We Go From Here?
¶13. (C) Throughout the country, there is still widespread and growing frustration with the regime for its brutal and
incompetent rule. Though most Burmese do not believe the NLD will be able to bring about democratic change, at least
while ASSK is under house arrest, they have not given up on working for democracy. Instead, they are taking matters
into their own hands and creatively working in what space is available to improve the lives of their communities.
¶14. (C) Like the many community-based organizations (CBOs), religious organizations, and civil society groups that
responded to Cyclone Nargis while the international community was shut out, many dissidents and ordinary Burmese
are creatively trying to incorporate democratic principles into their civil society programs, including private-tuition schools,
environmental programs, health education, and religious organizations. Through this process, change will come about more
slowly than most want, but it is a channel that functions where most other options were shut down by the regime after the
September 2007 demonstrations. It is also a method that promotes change from the grass roots, teaching community
responsibility at the local level, rather than a top-down movement by the urban, intellectual elite. A strong civil society is
something we should seek and encourage in Burma. It will make any democratic transition in Burma more likely to succeed.
¶15. (C) Ending Burma’s isolation will also be integral to any successful long-term change in the country. No matter how
democratic transition comes about in Burma, the military will be involved given its vast control over the political and
economic structures of the country. We should make an effort to seek out and speak with the more progressive military
officers and to those who have access to the senior generals. Their hostility to democratic change is motivated by paranoia
and distrust of the West, and a belief that we seek to punish them and obliterate a significant role for them in Burma’s future.
If we want to counter this, we should pursue dialogue directly with them rather than through intermediaries who can
sometimes garble messages.
¶16. (C) If we do decide to speak with the generals again, we should do it strategically. Dialogue could be used as a tool to
bring the generals into the twenty-first century.
RANGOON 00000557 004.2 OF 004
Discussions could take place on the margins of international fora, exposing them to the outside world and its diplomatic
norms, juxtaposing Burma’s backwardness against the modern world, which could cause greater realization among the
generals about their country’s lack of development. Careful preparation could be made before such events to make sure
Burma’s neighbors send the same messages to the generals during their bilateral meetings. Such unity of message was
extremely effective in persuading the regime to open up to international assistance after Cyclone Nargis.
Give a Little, Get a Little
¶17. (C) While our economic sanctions give us the moral high-ground, they are largely ineffective because they are not
comprehensive. Burma’s biggest client states refuse to participate in them. However, the generals despise the sanctions
and want them removed because they challenge the regime’s legitimacy. If we really want to see the generals make
progress, we need to show them what they will get in return. This means being willing to gradually remove sanctions in
exchange for true steps toward dialogue and political change.
¶18. (C) We should start small and hold them to real action (unlike the sham dialogue they purported to initiate with
Aung San Suu Kyi last November). If they do make concrete progress, we should be ready to offer them something.
For instance, removing them from Tier 3 on the Trafficking in Persons rankings, or taking them off the Narcotics Majors
list, areas where the regime has actually made some progress. This should be a gradual process that would be based
only on the condition of concrete results. Large rewards should come only with large compromises, such as lifting the
visa ban if they release Aung San Suu Kyi. We may also want to consider putting security guarantees on the table for
the most senior generals and their families if we are serious about removing them from the scene. As we move toward
the 2010 parliamentary elections, it may be a strategic time to begin talks with them about such an agreement. Allowing
international election monitors, lifting laws that restrict free and fair debate, and freeing key political prisoners could be
tied to lifting specific sanctions.
¶19. (C) While talking to the generals may be unpalatable, their firm control over Burma and the weakness of the
pro-democracy opposition are a reality we must consider when working to promote change in Burma. The prospect
for democratic change in the near future is low, but despite the setbacks after the September demonstrations, there is
hope change may eventually come. After many years of waiting for the outside world to help free them from the
generals’ despotic rule, many Burmese are finding creative ways to take control of their country through community-
based organizations and building the capacity of civil society. Through these organizations, leaders may emerge who
will run in the 2010 elections and work for democratic change.
¶20. (C) We should seek every opportunity to support and increase the capacity of Burma’s nascent civil society by
expanding humanitarian assistance inside the country that promotes self-reliance, conflict resolution, and respect for
human rights. Such a policy will have the added benefit of expanding our influence and increasing our access throughout
the country. Not only will this approach increase our knowledge of the subtle changes occurring inside Burma, but it will
strengthen our position and influence inside when change does come, so we can assist the Burmese to reform their
political and economic systems in a manner that best promotes U.S. economic and strategic interests. Above all, our
Burma policy should be focused on helping those Burmese who are working to bring about democratic change
themselves, for that is the only way it can realistically come. VILLAROSA