Monday, January 14, 2008

Suu Kyi meets with Burmese official

Suu Kyi meets with Burmese official

Rangoon (Agencies) Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met for one hour Friday with a junta official, in what her party described as a positive sign nearly two months after her last contact with the regime.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was taken from her rambling lakeside home in Rangoon, where she has been held under house arrest for a total of 12 years, to meet Labour Minister Aung Kyi at a nearby military facility, Burmese officials said.

The minister was appointed by the junta to handle contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi in the wake of the regime's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September.

Security was tight around the facility, and government officials declined to say what was discussed.

It was the fourth meeting between the pair since the military opened fire on peaceful protesters in the streets of Rangoon, leaving at least 31 dead and 74 missing, according to a UN report.

The two last met on November 19 and have had no known contacts since, despite intense international pressure on the regime, including a raft of new US and European sanctions on the military leadership.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said it had received no information about the meeting, but spokesman Nyan Win said he hoped she would also be allowed to meet her supporters.

"It's a positive sign if they really met," he told AFP. "They have to talk."

Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to meet four NLD officials on November 9, but the party has had no direct contact with her since then.

She has been confined to her home for 12 of the past 18 years. She led the NLD to a landslide victory in 1990, but the result has never been recognised by the junta, which has instead tried to silence her.

Analysts based in neighbouring Thailand also questioned if the talks were making any progress.

"It is good at least the military government is talking to Aung San Suu Kyi," said Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand-based Burma analyst.

"But the question is how long will they continue talking? So far we have not seen any progress, and the military can continue talking to Aung San Suu Kyi for two or three years without making any commitment and progress," he told AFP.

"The military government is keeping the dialogue just to show the international community that they are talking to Aung San Suu Kyi."

Since the crackdown on the protesters, Burma has faced mounting international pressure to reform.

In December, US President George W Bush threatened to spearhead a global campaign to step up sanctions against the country if it continued to ignore calls for a democratic transition.

The regime has allowed a UN special envoy and a UN rights investigator to visit the country since the crackdown, but has made few tangible concessions.

The junta in December expelled the top UN diplomat in Burma after he made a scathing statement on its dire humanitarian state.

04:22 Jan 12, 2008

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