Suu Kyi 'encouraged' by talks

2011-08-20 12:33

Naypyidaw - Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi said on Saturday she was "encouraged" by her first meeting with the country's new nominally civilian president.

In her first comments on Friday's discussions with President Thein Sein, a former general, the Nobel laureate indicated 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 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 the capital Naypyidaw, at the invitation of the regime, which came to power in March after a widely condemned election marred by the absence of Suu Kyi and her party.

'Putting aside different views'

A Myanmar 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 co-operate 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 Suu Kyi with Thein Sein at the presidential residence.

Suu Kyi remained in Naypyidaw overnight and attended a forum on the impoverished nation's economy on Saturday morning.

An AFP reporter at the event said the 66-year-old appeared relaxed and cheerful and spoke with senior government officials and ministers.

Open letter

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

But 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 Suu Kyi has held two rounds of talks with labour minister 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 travelled unhindered on her first overtly political trip outside her home city since being released from detention, addressing thousands of supporters.

The new government is also allowing UN rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana to visit Myanmar from Sunday for the first time in more than a year.

Vocal critic

Quintana has been a vocal critic of Myanmar's rulers, enraging the junta after his last trip by suggesting that human rights violations in the country may amount to crimes against humanity and could warrant a UN inquiry.

Myanmar's elections last November followed nearly half a century of military rule.

Suu 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.