National League for Democracy (NLD) chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi met on Friday with retired Senior General Than Shwe, the reclusive leader of Myanmar’s former ruling junta, to discuss the country’s transition to a multiparty democracy following the NLD’s landslide victory in national elections last month, an NLD spokesman confirmed on Saturday.
The two met at 2:00 p.m. in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, senior party member Win Htain told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
During their meeting, Than Shwe acknowledged the NLD’s victory in the polls and promised to support the continuing growth of democracy in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma, Win Htain said.
“Their meeting was a crucial step forward for politics in Myanmar, and it will be very helpful in promoting a peaceful transition,” he said.
“Than Shwe is believed to still wield influence in the government and the military to some degree, and this is why Suu Kyi decided to meet with him,” Win Htain said, adding, “The NLD has been asking consistently for political dialogue since 1989.”
“Finally, it has happened after 27 years,” he said.
'A good atmosphere'
“Suu Kyi is now having talks that will create a good atmosphere in which our country can move forward smoothly,” Tin Oo, NLD co-founder and former party chairperson, said on Saturday at a meeting of winning NLD candidates for parliament.
“People are very happy to hear about this, but she still needs your support, as she won’t be able to do all this by herself,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi had called for “national reconciliation” talks shortly after the NLD was assured of victory in the Nov. 8 polls, and observers are anxious to see how the transition will play out in Myanmar, where the military retains substantial sway over the country’s political affairs.
Than Shwe, 82, ruled Myanmar from 1992 to 2011 as chief of a military junta notorious for its brutal suppression of political dissent and for the corruption and lavish lifestyles of its leaders.
He was succeeded as national leader by Thein Sein, who became president as the leader of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in a 2010 election widely seen as neither free nor fair.
The NLD had swept the previous election in 1990, but the then-ruling military regime ignored the results and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for more than a decade.
Reported by Thin Thiri and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Written in English by Richard Finney.