|03RANGOON398||2003-03-28 09:40:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Rangoon|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000398
1. (SBU) Summary: Armed Forces Day, March 27, saw the
military government mount its traditional large military
parade and host a state banquet in the posh Armed Forces
grand hall and theater. The pro-democracy parties celebrated
Anti-Fascist Resistance Day (commemorating the 1945 switch of
General Aung San's Burmese army from the Japanese to the
Allied camps) with a well-attended gathering in the hall of
the decrepit NLD national headquarters building. The
eventful day included two bombs (see reftels), which killed
two and injured five. The devices may have been planted by a
radical student group frustrated with the lack of progress on
the return to democracy. End Summary.
Armed Forces Day
2. (U) Undeterred by the early morning discovery of a IED in
a park in central Rangoon, the Burmese military held its
customary military parade of some 8,000 well-drilled troops.
Senior General Than Shwe made short remarks to the assembled
group that included foreign military attaches.
3. (U) In the evening Than Shwe hosted a black tie gala
affair for about 400 people, including top military officers,
government officials, and representatives of the diplomatic
corps and international organizations. The dinner and
cultural show was held in the spacious Armed Forces grand
hall and theater complex in northern Rangoon.
4. (C) Senior General Than Shwe looked happy and fit. One
of his favorites, General Shwe Mann, once again stood in for
ailing Vice Senior General Maung Aye. During the socializing
period prior to dinner the top four senior generals stood
apart from the crowd while most invitees were busy exchanging
greetings with various contacts and friends. Oddly, almost
no one approached the four top generals. After an
embarrassingly long spell, the ambassador from Singapore went
up and spoke briefly to General Khin Nyunt.
5. (C) After dinner the guests were treated to a cultural
show performed by the Ministry of Culture troupe. The
evening culminated with a musical drama entitled "Brilliant
Endeavors of King Bayinnaung," introduced by the MC as
"reflections on this beloved king, who, utilizing all his
physical and mental prowess to advance the well-being of his
people, with the army's help, constructed many roads and
bridges to tie the land together. He also propagated the
Buddhist faith with many generous contributions to temples,
monasteries, and pagodas."
(NOTE: probably ninety percent of Than Shwe's public
appearances consist of inspecting roads and bridges or making
donations to Buddhist groups, leaving little doubt about the
real-life hero of the evening's musical drama.)
Anti-Fascist Resistance Day
6. (U) About 400 supporters of pro-democracy parties crammed
together in the run-down headquarters of the NLD, with scores
of people outside listening to the presentations on
loudspeakers. There was no visible security force presence
and the participants were not hindered in any way. Diplomats
representing the U.S., Britain, Australia, Japan, France,
Italy, and Korea attended, as did reps from UNDP, UNICEF, and
7. (U) Speaking forcefully in Burmese, Aung San Suu Kyi
recalled her father's aims in leading Burma's drive toward
independence. She also echoed JFK's "ask not" speech when
There are some people who ask, "when will we achieve
democracy?" Instead of asking such a question, ask yourself
whether you are doing your duty and contributing towards it.
We need to overcome such difficulties as we did during the
revolutionary period against fascists. We will surely
8. (U) After her short extemporaneous speech, ASSK sat on
the floor on a woven mat alongside NLD party representatives
from around the country and listened in the stifling heat to
the other speakers. Monks, student groups, and at least 6
other political parties were represented at the event.
Former Defense Minister U Tin Oo, the NLD's Vice Chairman,
gave the lengthy keynote address, calling for national unity
and a strong military with a dignified position within a
democratic Union. Afterwards ASSK came over and warmly
thanked the Charge' for attending.
9. (C) The NLD's geriatric Central Executive Committee,
seated in a row of chairs behind the podium, resembled the
front porch, one might imagine, of Rangoon's Home for the
Aged and Infirm.
10. (C) The events of the day, punctuated by the lethal
mid-day bomb blast, illuminated many differences between the
ruling State Peace and Development Committee and the
pro-democracy parties in style, aims, power, and wealth. The
democratic parties, absent progress on substantive dialogue
leading to political transition, run the risk of becoming
irrelevant in the eyes of those who impatiently chafe at the
regime's repressive rule. The terrorist bombs of March 27
reinforce the view of some people of the need for continued
strong military rule, while for others they highlight ongoing
resistance to such rule. The challenge ahead for Aung San
Suu Kyi and the NLD is to effect visible signs of peaceful
progress in the face of determined intransigence on the part
of the ruling SPDC and the violent provocations from a small
number of anti-regime radicals. End Comment.