Burma’s Suu Kyi suspects rigged voting, but offers to talk to junta

BANGKOK | Freed after seven years of house arrest, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Sunday she will investigate “many allegations of vote-rigging” in last week’s election, but offered to talk with the ruling military junta and consider the effects of U.S.-led economic sanctions.

After years of monitoring her radio, Mrs. Suu Kyi said she now wants to “listen to human voices” to learn from Burma’s masses about their woes and suggestions.

She also marveled at the ubiquitous use of mobile phones, revealing a sense of culture shock after her shuttered existence.

“I am for national reconciliation. I am for dialogue,[[“]] the soft-spoken Mrs. Suu Kyi said during a speech to 5,000 cheering people at the headquarters of her recently disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Hours later, she told the BBC: “I think we have to sort out our differences, across the table, talking to each other, agreeing to disagree, or finding out why we disagree and trying to remove the sources of our disagreement, if we possibly can.”

Her previous meeting with Burma’s supreme leader, Gen. Than Shwe, was in 2002 and failed to produce any major agreement.

Mrs. Suu Kyi’s popular NLD party boycotted Burma’s Nov. 7 national election, which resulted in a landslide victory for the military’s candidates.

“From what I have heard, there are many, many questions about the fairness of the election, and there were many allegations of vote-rigging, and so on,” the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate told the BBC.

“The committee that the NLD formed on this matter will be looking into all these allegations, and they will be bringing out their report,” Mrs. Suu Kyi told the BBC, indicating she will challenge the military’s control over the voting places, which was condemned as a sham by several world leaders including President Obama.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, 65, said she wants to discuss the effects of U.S.-led international economic sanctions with nations supporting and opposing those policies, and determine whether they should be tightened, eased or ended.

Several pro-democracy Burmese groups demand that sanctions be toughened on banking, insurance and other financial sectors because the regime conducts international business through foreign banks and insurance companies, not under the current sanctions program.

U.S.-led sanctions and the military’s corrupt mismanagement have impoverished the country, hitting the struggling civilian population hardest.

Burma receives investment and other support from neighboring China, Thailand and India, which appear to benefit by not having to compete with U.S. and European companies restricted by the sanctions.

Burma also receives weapons and diplomatic support from China, which uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block international efforts to pressure the regime.

In return, China taps Burma’s natural gas and other vast natural resources, and is gaining an overland southern route to Burma’s Bay of Bengal coast, which opens to the Indian Ocean.

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