May 9, 2006

Myanmar hits US, Britain on NLD training

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar has accused the U.S. and British
embassies of violating diplomatic protocol by conducting free
training courses for members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition
party, a state newspaper said on Tuesday.

The New Light of Myanmar said junior leaders of the
National League for Democracy (NLD) had studied English,
computers and international relations at the embassies since
last year.

It said the training was illegal because the $1,000 fees
normally charged to the public had been waived for the NLD

"The training courses conducted by these embassies are
aimed at feeding sugar-coated poison to youths," the newspaper
said in attacking the two main Western critics of the military

"It is found that conducting illegal courses at the
embassies in cooperation with the NLD means violating the
diplomatic codes of conduct and interfering in the Myanmar's
internal affairs blatantly," it said.

Embassy officials were not immediately available to

The newspaper report came amid mounting pressure on the
NLD, which won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be
denied power by the army, which has ruled in various guises
since 1962.

The junta accused the NLD last month of having ties to
"terrorists and destructive groups" and said it had cause to
ban the party, but it would allow the NLD to exist for now.

Since then, the party has been hit by a spate of
resignations which NLD officials blame on pressure from the

On Monday, state newspapers reported that 67 NLD members in
Shwegu Township in Kachin State had quit on May 4 and handed
over their office equipment to local authorities.

Dozens more resignations have been reported in Northern
Shan State and some foreign diplomats believe the junta is
preparing a final crackdown against the NLD despite its
weakened state.

The party's offices outside the capital have been shut
since May 2003 when Suu Kyi, 60, was detained. The Nobel Peace
laureate remains under house arrest at her Yangon home, her
telephone cut off and visitors restricted.

The junta's actions drew a mild rebuke last week from
regional neighbor Malaysia, which said the credibility of
Yangon's "roadmap to democracy" would be at risk if it banned
the NLD.

Myanmar proposed a seven-step plan in 2003 to end 44 years
of army diktat, but the junta says it is only half way through
step one, drafting a new constitution.

Yangon's foot-dragging has irked its neighbors in the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which forced
Myanmar to forego its chairmanship of the 10-nation grouping
this year.