Friday, September 26, 1997

Ne Win Leaves Jakarta After 'Secret' Dialogue

Andreas Harsono
The Nation

JAKARTA - Burma's former leader Ne Win left Jakarta for a medical check-up in Singapore yesterday after holding talks with Indonesian President Suharto and visiting the cemetery of the late first lady, Tien Suharto.

An atmosphere of secrecy, however, surrounded Ne Win's three-day visit, which included a cancelled tour to an Indonesian miniature park which was the only sightseeing on his schedule.

"No tourist comes to Indonesia just to visit the cemetery and to talk with the president," said a Burma watcher.

Speculation began to circulate in Jakarta two months ago that Suharto, who visited Rangoon in February, was inviting Ne Win to come to Jakarta in a bid to discuss the issue of democratisation in Burma.

It was speculated that the Indonesian leader, who supported Burma's admission into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in July, would ask Ne Win to use his influence to ask Rangoon's military junta to open dialogue with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A state protocol official told The Nation that the 86-year-old Ne Win and his entourage left Jakarta on a commercial flight from Cengkareng airport for Singapore, saying that Ne Win had bid farewell to Suharto earlier in the morning. The two strongmen met for about 15 minutes on Tuesday evening before dining together.

Many Burmese believe that Ne Win still exercises control over the present military government, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), which succeeded him in September 1988.

Some analysts have written that there is little hope of breaking the political stalemate between Slorc and the democracy movement until Ne Win dies.

His public appearance in Indonesia also raised the curiosity of Burma watchers as his last public appearance was on Armed Forces Day in Rangoon in March 1989.

An Indonesian journalist who was at the Merdeka Presidential Palace during the dinner said it was not clear whether the two strongmen discussed politics.

The dinner was a relatively quiet Suharto was accompanied only by his three daughters and son-in-law Maj Gen Prabowo Subianto, who is the commander of Indonesia's special command Kopassus, as well as interim Foreign Affairs Minister Edi Sudrajat.

Ne Win was accompanied by his daughter Sanda Win, son-in-law U Aye Zaw Win, grandson Maung Kyaw Ne Win and Burmese ambassador to Indonesia U Nyi Nyi Tant.

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