Suu Kyi Invited to Naypyidaw

Burma’s democracy icon has been invited to attend a conference in the military-backed government’s capital.
2011-10-30
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Aung San Suu Kyi (left) speaks after her meeting with Burmese Labor Minister Aung Kyi (right) in Rangoon, Oct. 30, 2011.
Aung San Suu Kyi (left) speaks after her meeting with Burmese Labor Minister Aung Kyi (right) in Rangoon, Oct. 30, 2011.
AFP

Burma’s government has invited pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to observe an international environmental conference, sources said, in the latest gesture of reconciliation by President Thein Sein's administration moving to bring her into the mainstream political process.

She is expected to attend the eight-nation “Myanmar First Forum on Green Economy and Green Growth” forum at meetings in Naypyidaw or Rangoon early this week.

Thein Sein will also attend the conference, which is sponsored by Green Economy Green Growth, a coalition of public and private organizations. Participants include those from Burma as well as other Southeast Asian countries.

In August, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi met with the president for the first time on the sidelines of a conference on poverty in Naypyidaw, and some speculate the two could meet again this week.

The invitation is the latest bid by the government to mend fences with Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from 15 years of house arrest in November last year shortly after an election won by the powerful military's political proxies.

Since coming to power in April, the nominally civilian government has enacted a series of reforms, including calling for peace with ethnic minority groups, easing media controls, and releasing several hundred political prisoners.

As part of that process, Aung San Suu Kyi has been invited to take part in talks with government officials.

On Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi held her fourth round of meetings with Burma’s Labor Minister Aung Kyi to discuss amnesty for political prisoners, ethnic clashes, and free trade and financial issues.  Further details about their discussion were not released.

Registration

The same day, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said it will decide this week whether to re-register as an official political party, following revisions to the country’s law passed Thursday.

The NLD chose not to register and boycotted the November elections, which some critics denounced as a sham designed to legitimize a government led by ex-military generals. 

The NLD had also objected to some of the registration requirements, which included supporting the 2008 constitution. Aung San Suu Kyi  and other pro-democracy activists charged that the constitution effectively enshrined the supremacy of the military in politics.

Recent revisions include a re-wording of key clauses in the charter. One clause barring anyone convicted of a crime from joining a party has been dropped. Another amendment requires political parties to "respect and obey" the 2008 constitution instead of "preserve and protect.”

An NLD party spokesman said Aung San Suu Kyi may stand for parliament in by-elections later this year if her party re-registers itself, Reuters news agency reported.

"I think she will and I personally want her to," NLD spokesman Nyan Win said, speaking ahead of the party meeting this week.

He said the NLD was likely to get re-registered under the amended party law.

The 66-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi had said a month ago that she would have to get the approval of her party's central executive committee on any participation in elections if the registration law was amended.

ASEAN

The government’s overtures toward her came as Indonesia’s foreign minister hinted Saturday that Burma’s reforms are significant enough to keep the country on track to become chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"I wish to believe and I get the sense that they are meant to be irreversible," said Marty Natalegawa, foreign minister of Indonesia, which currently holds the rotating chair of the 10-member group.

"I did not get any indication that the [reform] process will stop," Natalegawa said, after meeting with members of the Burmese government and with Aung San Suu Kyi during his four-day trip.

"The full assessment I shall make upon my return to Jakarta and upon sharing my thoughts with my other ASEAN foreign minister colleagues," he said.

Some Western countries have been skeptical of the extent of Burma’s reforms. The United States has said it supports Burma’s reforms but wants to see more before considering lifting sanctions on the country.

Also this week, two senior U.S. officials will visit Burma to push for more political prisoner releases and democratic reforms.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner will arrive Tuesday on a four-day visit and meet with senior government officials and representatives of civil society and international organizations.

Posner will be joined by U.S. special envoy to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, his third visit in less than two months.

Reported by a special correspondent. Written with additional reporting by Rachel Vandenbrink, and RFA’s Burmese service.

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