BANGKOK, Thailand -- Aung San Suu Kyi's "irrelevant" political party has "little concern for the social and economic plight of most Burmese," so America should offer "security guarantees" to Burma's military dictators and their families to remove them from power, according to a U.S. Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks.

"We should not expect an imminent coup to save us from the hard-line senior generals," the cable said.

Classified by the U.S. Embassy in Burma's Political Officer, Leslie Hayden, the cable gave "her candid observations on the current political situation, and her recommendations."

The "CONFIDENTIAL" cable, dated July 14, 2008 and titled, "SUBJECT: CONTINUING THE PURSUIT OF DEMOCRACY IN BURMA," was signed by U.S. Ambassador Shari Villarosa.

"We may also want to consider putting security guarantees on the table for the most senior generals and their families if we are serious about removing them from the scene.

"As we move toward the 2010 parliamentary elections, it may be a strategic time to begin talks with them about such an agreement," the cable said in a section coyly sub-titled, "Give a Little, Get a Little."

"While talking to the generals may be unpalatable, their firm control over Burma and the weakness of the pro-democracy opposition are a reality we must consider when working to promote change in Burma."

The U.S. Embassy painted a grim picture of the military's stranglehold on Burma, also known as Myanmar, which is the biggest country in mainland Southeast Asia.

"The generals keep their power through a vast system of economic patronage, not unlike a Western style Mafia. Military-owned enterprises control every profit-making natural resource and industry in the country.

"Economic prosperity can only be enjoyed by rising thorough the ranks of the Army, or having extremely close ties to the senior generals," the cable said.

Burma's Senior Gen. Than Shwe possesses "almost absolute power. He has the final word on all significant political and economic decisions.

"While outsiders may portray him as an uneducated, crass, and blundering man, he has successfully consolidated and held onto power for several years, while at the same time building lucrative relationships with his energy-hungry neighbors that undermine Western efforts to cripple his regime."

Mrs. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party was run by a "sclerotic leadership of the elderly NLD 'Uncles'," the cable said, echoing Burma's traditional folksy adjective of respect for older gentlemen.

"Without a doubt, Aung San Suu Kyi remains a popular and beloved figure of the Burman majority, but this status is not enjoyed by her party," the U.S. embassy in Rangoon said.

"The way the Uncles run the NLD indicates the party is not the last great hope for democracy and Burma. The Party is strictly hierarchical, new ideas are not solicited or encouraged from younger members, and the Uncles regularly expel members they believe are 'too active'," it said.

"Many of the younger political activists are turning away from the NLD."

Mrs. Suu Kyi's party has not "made any effort to join forces with the technically sophisticated bloggers and young, internet-savvy activists, who have been so clever at getting out the images which repeatedly damaged the regime and undermined its international credibility.

"Instead, the Uncles spend endless hours discussing their entitlements from the 1990 elections and abstract policy which they are in no position to enact," the cable said, describing NLD politicians who were elected to be Members of Parliament in 1990 but forbidden by the military from forming a government.

"Additionally, most MPs-elect show little concern for the social and economic plight of most Burmese, and therefore, most Burmese regard them as irrelevant."

More than two years after the cable was written, Mrs. Suu Kyi's NLD boycotted a November 7, 2010 nationwide election, claiming the poll was unfair and stacked against them by the military.

As punishment for boycotting the election, the regime disbanded her NLD party.

On November 14 -- when Mrs. Suu Kyi, 65, was released from a total of 15 years of on-and-off house arrest -- she met her NLD's elderly leadership, and together they began a court case to make her party a legal entity again, under her leadership.

Minority ethnic minorities, meanwhile, have been fighting guerrilla wars for autonomy or independence in the north and east along Burma's borders with China and Thailand, though several of them signed cease-fire deals with the regime.

The majority of the country's population are ethnic Burman who often discriminate against the minorities which include Shan, Karen, Karenni, Wa, Chin, Mon and others who dwell mostly in mountainous jungles where they have created armed fiefdoms built on opium, heroin and methamphetamine manufacturing and smuggling, or by taxing other resources such as gems and timber.

Mrs. Suu Kyi's party is also mostly ethnic Burman and "they reduced the role of the ethnics to second-class supplicants," the U.S. Embassy cable said.

"The cease-fire groups remain an important component of Burma's future political stability, and it is noteworthy that none have chosen to support Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.

"Instead, they have entered dialogue with the regime, at the same time cutting lucrative concession deals for many of groups' leaders," it said.

"The NLD's continuing alienation of the ethnic minority groups gives credence to the regime's most effective argument with its neighbors and ASEAN -- that the military is the only force capable of guaranteeing stability in Burma," the U.S. Embassy said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which groups Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.


Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California. He has reported news from Asia since 1978 and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, Hello My Big Big Honey! Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His website is:

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(Copyright 2010 Richard S Ehrlich)