Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has held her first formal meeting with a minister of the country's new civilian government.
She spoke with Labour and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi on Monday in talks that lasted just over an hour.
Suu Kyi had met Aung Kyi several times before, during her years under house arrest. Aung Kyi previously served as a liaison for Myanmar's military government, and visited Suu Kyi while she was in detention. But this is the first time Suu Kyi has met a senior official since her release from house arrest last year, following the country's national elections.
The minister described the talks as positive. According to the minister, the two discussed the rule of law and ways to eliminate misunderstandings in the interests of the good of the country and the people.
Suu Kyi has repeatedly appealed for political dialogue in Myanmar, criticising the military's failure to establish democracy even after last year's elections. But her previous initiatives have never gotten far, and the current government recently warned her to stop all political activities and cautioned against her travelling outside Yangon.
Report: Myanmar's Suu Kyi holds rare talks with minister [Reuters, 25 July 2011]
In November 2010, Myanmar held its first elections in over 20 years. But Suu Kyi was excluded from elections and her political supporters boycotted the vote. Military-backed parties won by far the largest number of seats. The country's generals said the poll marked a transition to democracy, but it has been criticised by opposition groups and Western nations as a sham.
The elected civilian government that took office in March is led by retired military figures, and the constitution ensures the military retains dominance.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a resounding victory in Myanmar's last elections in 1990, but was kept from power by the military junta. She has spent much of the past 20 years under house arrest, and was only released shortly after last year's vote.
Report and Analysis: Aung San Suu Kyi meets government minister Aung Kyi [BBC News, 25 July 2011]
Asked what she thought of Monday’s meeting, Suu Kyi said: “We expect results that are beneficial for the country and the people.”
Commenting on the talks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement welcoming the meeting and also encouraged future dialogue. Ban also urged Myanmar to release political prisoners in the country.
Report: Ban calls on Myanmar to consider ‘early action’ on release of prisoners [UN News Agency, 25 July 2011]
The meeting came just days after US. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for dialogue between Myanmar's government and the pro-democracy camp at last week's ASEAN summit in Indonesia.
Myanmar hopes to hold ASEAN’s rotating chair in 2014. It is possible that Myanmar aims to deflect international opposition to the idea from countries like the US by showing a softer stance towards Suu Kyi.
Report and Analysis: Burma Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Meets Government Official[Voice of America, 25 July 2011]