US embassy cable - 92RANGOON5650

BURMA'S LEADER EXUDES CONFIDENCE -- AND A SOFTER LINE

Identifier: 92RANGOON5650
Wikileaks: View 92RANGOON5650 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rangoon
Created: 1992-09-18 09:00:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PHUM CH IN BM
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 180900Z SEP 92
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1900
INFO AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
DIA WASHDC
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L RANGOON 05650 
 
 
STATE FOR EAP/TB, NEA/INS, HA AND INM/AMB BORG 
CINCPAC ALSO FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, PHUM, CH, IN, BM 
SUBJECT: BURMA'S LEADER EXUDES CONFIDENCE -- AND A 
         SOFTER LINE 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  THE INDIAN AMBASSADOR TOLD CHARGE TODAY THAT HIS 
FAREWELL MEETING WITH GENERAL THAN SHWE ON SEPTEMBER 
17 HAD REINFORCED HIS SENSE THAT RANGOON'S NEW HEAD 
OF STATE IS SOMEWHAT SERIOUS ABOUT LIBERALIZING BURMA 
-- AND ENCOUNTERING RESISTENCE ON THIS SCORE FROM 
POWERFUL INTELLIGENCE CHIEF KHIN NYUNT.  ELABORATING, 
HE CHARACTERIZED THAN SHWE AS "ASSIDUOUSLY PEDDLING A 
SOFTER LINE" BOTH RE INDIAN-BURMESE RELATIONS AND 
INTERNAL POLITICAL EVOLUTION.  THE GENERAL ADMITTED, 
FOR EXAMPLE, THAT THE MILITARY "CANNOT STAY IN POWER 
TOO LONG WITHOUT RISKING UNPOPULARITY" AND THAT 
BURMA'S "POOR ECONOMY WON'T RECOVER WITHOUT FOREIGN 
EXPERTISE AND INPUTS."  THAN SHWE ALSO VENTURED THAT 
THE "FRACTIONING (SIC: FRAGMENTATION) OF BURMA CAN 
ONLY BE AVOIDED IF THE PEOPLE ARE BROUGHT IN AND CAN 
SHARE IN THE CAKE." 
 
3.  WHILE GENERAL THAN SHWE INTERLARDED THESE 
ADMISSIONS WITH MORE CONVENTIONAL GOB RHETORIC ON THE 
MILITARY'S CONTINUING ROLE IN KEEPING THE COUNTRY 
TOGETHER, HIS "LIBERAL" ADMISSIONS WENT WELL BEYOND 
THE NORM -- EVEN FOR PRIVATE TALKS.  STRONGMAN KHIN 
NYUNT -- WHO SAT IN BUT WAS STUDIOUSLY KEPT OUT OF 
THE DISCOURSE BY THAN SHWE -- WAS CLEARLY 
DISCOMFORTED BY ALL THIS CANDOR.  AT ONE POINT, THE 
INTELLIGENCE CHIEF EVEN VIGOROUSLY NODDED HIS HEAD IN 
DISAGREEMENT.  COMMENT:  DURING THAN SHWE'S TALK WITH 
THE JAPANESE AMBASSADOR SOME MONTHS BACK, THE 
INTELLIGENCE CHIEF TWICE BROKE IN TO DISAGREE WITH 
HIS BOSS. 
 
4.  DURING THE DISCUSSION OF INDIAN-BURMESE 
RELATIONS, THAN SHWE CHARACTERIZED TIES AS "ON THE 
IMPROVE" BUT THEN FAULTED NEW DELHI FOR SOURING THE 
RELATIONSHIP IN THE FIRST PLACE, CHIEFLY BY ALLOWING 
ALL INDIA RADIO TO RUN AMOK.  HOWEVER, HE CAREFULLY 
BALANCED THIS "HISTORICAL" CRITICISM BY OBSERVING 
THAT THE RECENT VISIT TO INDIA BY DEPUTY FOREIGN 
MINISTER AND REGIME INSIDER U AYE HAD GONE VERY 
WELL.  LOOKING AHEAD, THAN SHWE HOPED THAT HIS 
FOREIGN MINISTER WOULD SOON GET AN INVITATION TO NEW 
DELHI.  THE INDIAN AMBASSADOR RESPONDED BY NOTING 
THAT FURTHER POLITICAL PROGRESS IN BURMA WOULD EASE 
THE WAY FOR HIGH-LEVEL EXCHANGES. 
 
5.  TURNING TO THE PRC-BURMA NEXUS, THE INDIAN 
AMBASSADOR VOICED HIS GOVERNMENT'S CONCERN THAT CHINA 
MAY BE ALLOWED TO BUILD A NAVAL BASE ON THE ANDAMAN 
SEA COAST (SEPTEL HAS DETAILS).  THAN SHWE BRUSHED 
AWAY THIS FEAR, NOTING THAT "BURMA LACKS THE MONEY 
FOR ANY JOINT BUILDING OF A NAVAL BASE" AND 
"CERTAINLY WON'T ALLOW CHINA OR ANY FOREIGN POWER TO 
HAVE A BASE HERE."  WHEN THE INDIAN AMBASSADOR 
PURSUED PRC-BURMESE TIES FURTHER BY ASKING ABOUT THE 
ARMS RELATIONSHIP, THE HEAD OF STATE OBSERVED THAT 
"HIS COUNTRY HAD FEW ALTERNATIVES."  CLOSING THE 
SUBJECT, HE TOLD THE INDIAN AMBASSADOR NOT TO WORRY 
AS "BURMA IS ADEQUATELY CONCERNED ABOUT SOVERIGNTY 
ISSUES."  COMMENT:  A WORLD-CLASS UNDERSTATEMENT. 
 
6.  GENERAL COMMENT:  THAN SHWE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS 
US AS MORE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A LIBERAL COURSE 
THAN EITHER HIS PREDECESSOR SAW MAUNG OR KHIN NYUNT, 
AT LEAST BY BURMESE MILITARY STANDARDS.  (A VIEW 
SHARED BY OTHER WESTERN EMBASSIES HERE.)  THOUGH THIS 
HAS NOT LED TO AN OPEN SPLIT BETWEEN BURMA'S TWO TOP 
GUNS -- IN PART BECAUSE THE RULING GENERALS PERCEIVE 
A STRONG NEED FOR A UNITED PUBLIC FRONT -- THERE ARE 
QUASI-OVERT SIGNS OF FRICTION.  FOR EXAMPLE, KHIN 
NYUNT RECENTLY TOOK THE UNUSUAL STEP OF COMPLAINING 
TO THE THAI AMBASSADOR ABOUT THE GOB'S (READ THAN 
SHWE'S) ADMISSION TO HOLDING POLITICAL PRISONERS. 
THIS ACTION, THE STRONGMAN CLAIMED, WAS CLEARED BY 
NEITHER MOFA NOR HIMSELF. 
 
 
HUDDLE 

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