Sun, Aug 21, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Aung San Suu Kyi ‘encouraged’ by talks with president

AFP, NAYPYIDAW

Myanmar’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday said she was “encouraged” by her first meeting with the country’s new nominally civilian president.

In her first comments on Friday’s discussions with Myanmar President Thein Sein, a former general, the Nobel laureate said that the one-hour meeting in the capital Naypyidaw had gone well.

“I am glad to see him and I am encouraged,” she told reporters.

The talks, a rare encounter between Aung San Suu Kyi and one of the members of the junta who kept her locked up for much of the past two decades, are the latest example of contacts between the government and its most renowned critic.

It was the democracy icon’s first visit to Naypyidaw, at the invitation of the regime, which came to power in March after a widely condemned election marred by the absence of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.

A government official, who asked not to be named, said the meeting was “quite good and quite open,” without giving details of the nature of discussions, which were held behind closed doors.

Government mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar said both sides sought “potential common grounds to cooperate in the interests of the nation and the people putting aside different views” in a short item on the talks.

The newspaper published a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi with Thein Sein at the presidential residence.

Aung San Suu Kyi remained in Naypyidaw overnight and attended a forum on the nation’s economy yesterday morning. A reporter at the event said the 66-year-old appeared relaxed and cheerful and spoke with senior government officials and ministers.

Aung San Suu Kyi was told in June to stay out of politics and warned that a political tour could spark chaos and riots.

However, Myanmar’s government, led by Thein Sein, a former general and junta prime minister, has since appeared to want to soften its image.

In recent weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi has held two rounds of talks with Myanmar Minister of Labour Aung Kyi in Yangon and has written an open letter offering to aid ceasefire talks between the military and ethnic rebels.

Last Sunday, the daughter of Myanmar’s liberation hero General Aung San traveled unhindered on her first overtly political trip outside her home city since being released from detention, addressing thousands of supporters.

Myanmar’s elections in November last year followed nearly half a century of military rule.

Aung Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted the poll because of rules seemingly designed to exclude the democracy icon and was stripped of its status as a political party as a result.

The NLD won a 1990 vote by a landslide, but was never allowed by the junta to take power.

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