BANGKOK, Thailand — Former Prime Minister U Nu, ousted from office 26 years ago, proclaimed Friday that he had formed a new government of Burma and named a cabinet--a move that astonished other opposition leaders.
"I have today informed foreign governments that I am the legitimate prime minister and only the government constituted by me should be recognized by them," U Nu, 82, said in a letter circulated in the Burmese capital of Rangoon. He called for national elections next month.
There was no immediate comment from the incumbent, military-dominated government, which is clinging grimly to power in the face of a popular nationwide rebellion. But top opposition figures expressed surprise and concern at U Nu's step, demonstrating the lack of unity among the anti-government forces.
Opposition Leader Amazed
According to reports from Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has emerged from the relative obscurity of self-imposed exile to win favor with Burma's rebellious students, said she was amazed by the announcement by U Nu, who is the nominal head of the opposition Alliance for Peace and Democracy.
Aung Gyi, a former ally of Burmese strongman Ne Win who subsequently became the regime's harshest and most constant critic, was more blunt in his assessment of U Nu's claim to power.
"I'm glad my name is not (among U Nu's designated cabinet ministers)," Aung Gyi said. "It is simply preposterous."
Meanwhile, the government of President Maung Maung continued to maintain its own timetable for political change. An extraordinary congress of the ruling party is scheduled for Monday, and on Friday soldiers were seen carrying mattresses from Rangoon's Strand Hotel to the Parliament building, possibly to provide comfort for the delegates. Maung Maung has said he will demand that the congress approve a national referendum on multi-party democracy.
As public order continued to fray and signs of defection within the military raised fears of renewed violence, foreign embassies were able to evacuate dependents. More than 230 people, including 46 Americans, left Rangoon aboard a special Thai International Airlines flight Friday. More Americans are expected to leave over the weekend, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said.
Parliament Is Off Limits
Tin Oo, a former defense minister who was named to take up that post again in U Nu's new government, called on demonstrators to press for the fall of Maung Maung's government by forcing the cancellation of Monday's ruling-party congress. The government has declared the area of the Parliament building off limits to demonstrators and has posted soldiers outside the building.
"Though I was robbed of my power, I am still the legitimate prime minister according to the constitution passed in 1947," U Nu said in his letter, which was distributed to foreign embassies Friday morning. He named as president of his government Mahn Win Maung, who held that post before Ne Win carried out his coup in 1962, ousted the U Nu government, tore up the constitution and established a one-party state.
U Nu said the elections are to take place Oct. 9 at town meetings, because there is no equipment for proper balloting. He said there will be no elections in rural areas.
If the national referendum on a multi-party system is adopted Monday, Maung Maung's government also would order elections. Meanwhile, the Burma Socialist Program Party would remain in power.
Call for Interim Government
Student demonstrators--the student movement, like the political opposition, appears to be fractured and largely leaderless--want the ruling party to give way now to an interim government.
Many protesters say they expect the ruling party to do so, even though demonstrators do not appear inclined to undertake a full-fledged revolution.
So far, the military has stood generally firm with Maung Maung and Ne Win, who resigned his last office, as party chairman, in July. But most Burmese believe Ne Win still calls the shots in the government.
Early Friday, military men had joined anti-government protests in Rangoon, for the first time in large numbers. An estimated 200 to 300 uniformed air force enlisted men were joined by a score or more sailors and soldiers at a rally outside Rangoon General Hospital. Other protesters cheered the military men as they chanted anti-government slogans.
Reports reached Rangoon of other military defections in provincial towns, including Mandalay, but none could be confirmed.
"We side with democracy and not with fascists," the defecting airmen in the capital declared.