'Historic' meeting of Burmese opposition in Indonesia

Aug 3, 2009 (DVB), Burmese ethnic groups and pro-democracy parties are set to meet in Jakarta this month to draw up a national reconciliation programme for Burma, billed as "history being made".

The alliance, the Movement for Democracy and Rights for Ethnic Nationalities (MDREN), will meet in the Indonesian capital on 12 and 13 August to formalize the 'Proposal for National Reconciliation'.

A statement released today by MDREN said that "delegates from all groups aligned in opposition to the military regime" would be present at the meeting.

"The proposal envisages opening a process of dialogue with the junta, effectively offering a sustainable exit-strategy for the military rulers," it said.

"Civil sector support, electoral and constitutional reforms, military demobilisation, ethnic relations and social infrastructure are among the central areas addressed in the [proposal]."

The Prime Minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), Sein Win, said that the convention was "history being made".

"The last time all major ethnic and pro-democracy organizations have forged a common position was in 1947 when all forces agreed to seek independence from the British," he said.

"As such, this is the first time an indigenous coalition has agreed to work together against a home-grown power."

The MDREN is made up of opposition groups both within Burma and in exile, and includes the Ethnic Nationalities Council, the Women's League of Burma and the Forum for Democracy in Burma.

International diplomats and non-governmental organizations will also attend the meeting.

Indonesia is hailed as a Southeast Asian success story after successful democratic transition from military rule in 1998, and is often cited as a potential model for Burma's transition.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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