The military government Friday offered to meet with opposition leaders but sent a column of troops and armored cars through the capital in a show of force, opposition leaders said.
The offer was reported as a government spokesman said the army recaptured three outposts taken this week by rebel groups in battles that killed 47 soldiers and 131 communist rebels.An opposition leader, Gen. Tin Oo, vice president of the National League for Democracy, said his party received a letter from the ruling military junta offering to meet with government opponents "in the near future" after "defense operations" were over.
Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw also informed diplomats the military regime, which took control of the impoverished Southeast Asian nation in a Sept. 18 coup, is ready to talk with the opposition, diplomatic sources said.
"This is a good sign," Tin Oo said. "We will ask for basic human rights, including the right to free speech, free assembly and a free press."
Tin Oo, a retired general and former defense minister, said the opposition will demand access to television stations and the print media for its candidates during the campaign for free elections promised by the military government.
One diplomat said there were indications the elections, the first involving multiple parties since 1960, would be held early next year in the country wracked by months of anti-government protests.
But he said there are still strong fears the military would use its power to ensure a victory for the National Unity Party, which until recently called itself the Burma Socialist Program Party - Burma's only political party.
Western diplomats and opposition leaders believe former president and party leader Ne Win, who retired July 23 after 26 years of authoritarian rule, was behind the military coup that ousted civilian president Maung Maung.
The military junta led by Gen. Saw Maung is Burma's third government since Ne Win retired amid the unrest triggered by economic ills and demands for democracy. Diplomats believe that during the first week the new regime was in power, troops killed as many as 1,000 people while quelling protests.
Friday, a column of about 50 trucks loaded with troops and a dozen armored cars rumbled through Rangoon as a reminder of the military's control of the government.
A government official said the show of strength might have been intended to dispel rumors that the number of soldiers in Rangoon had been reduced to reinforce troops fighting communist rebels in the northeastern frontier.
A military spokesman told a news conference troops recaptured three outposts in Shan State, about 440 miles northeast of Rangoon. He said 47 soldiers and one policeman were killed, 104 were wounded and the bodies of 131 rebels from the Burma Communist Party were recovered.
Another government spokesman said 76 more people were killed in "defense operations" in the past two days, bringing to 425 the number killed since the military seized power.