Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held unprecedented talks on Wednesday with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who conveyed her eagerness to get elected and lead the country, according to Yingluck’s spokeswoman.
The talks were held during a two-day visit to Burma, making Yingluck the first ever head of state to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for most of the past two decades until her release a year ago.
Yingluck’s spokeswoman Thitima Chaisang told RFA that the discussions were primarily held in order to “get to know each other.”
“Aung San Suu Kyi [said] she would like to manage the country and she wants to be elected—she would like to win the election, but that it depends on the people. So Prime Minister Yingluck cheered Aung San Suu Kyi on to get the win,” Thitima said.
Aung San Suu Kyi is preparing to stand as a candidate in a by-election in early 2012. She could not participate in landmark general elections held in November last year as she was released by the then-ruling military junta after the polls.
Yingluck also asked Aung San Suu Kyi about her goals as head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the spokeswoman said.
“Aung San Suu Kyi told us that she wants to use the ideas and opinions of the people as the fundamental [strategy] and would like to make benefits for the people and would like to cooperate with the people,” she said.
Yingluck met with the Nobel laureate at 7:30 p.m. in Rangoon after meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein earlier in the day, Information Committee member of Aung Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party Ohn Kyaing told RFA.
"Aung San Suu Kyi and the Thai prime minister met at the Thai ambassador's residence for nearly an hour. They talked very friendly and frankly," he said, without providing further details of their discussion.
The pro-democracy leader also discussed national reconciliation in Burma and relations with neighboring countries, particularly neighbor Thailand.
“She said [that no matter whether a] short- or long-term [bilateral] relationship, we should take it seriously … because we have to stay with people. People from these countries have to meet with people of the other countries—this is her idea,” Thitima said.
Aung San Suu Kyi stressed to Yingluck that Burma and Thailand should work together to set an example.
Earlier, Yingluck met with President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw where she had been attending the 4th General Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) Summit to discuss development of land transport in the region.
The GMS comprises Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and China.
In addition to energy and transport proposals, Yingluck also discussed a number of humanitarian issues with Thein Sein, according to spokeswoman Thitima.
Burma agreed to reopen the border crossing at Myawaddy and to release eight Thai prisoners from Kawthaung prison.
The Thai prime minister expressed her hope that reforms would continue in Burma and congratulated Thein Sein on initiating peace accords with ethnic armed groups located in the country’s remote border regions.
Yingluck informed Thein Sein that Thailand would repair the Thai-Burmese Friendship Bridge and a connecting road in Myawaddy as requested by Burma, and asked for support on a plan to develop a roadway from the Dawei industrial complex in southern Burma to western Thailand.
Both countries also pledged to increase their joint offshore gas production in Burma.
Yingluck’s visit to Burma was initially explored by her brother, ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, during a trip to the country last week, the Bangkok Post reported Tuesday.
Thaksin told the Post in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he lives in self-imposed exile, that he travelled to Burma last Thursday and visited Thein Sein and former military junta chief Than Shwe.
He said that he helped to smooth the way for Yingluck to visit with Aung San Suu Kyi and that the meeting shows the importance Burma places on relations with Thailand. Burmese leaders have never before allowed the heads of other countries to hold a sit down with the opposition leader.
"Relations between Thailand and Burma have never faded since my time. I never used a stick to deal with Burma like the superpowers did. I always used a carrot to deal with it," Thaksin told the Post.
He also said that as prime minister, he had once offered Burma an opportunity to use Bangkok as a venue to draw up its constitution and a stage from which to plead its case to Western countries for lifting economic sanctions against it.
Critics say Thailand’s plan to build transport and energy ties with Burma may ultimately end up lining the pockets of Thaksin and his closest allies.
During his tenure between 2001 and 2004, Thaksin’s government invested heavily in land transport, energy, and telecommunications development in then-military ruled Burma.
He specifically ordered the Thai Foreign Ministry to help Burma secure a 4 billion baht (U.S. $127.7 million) loan from the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to buy equipment from his telecoms empire.
When asked by RFA about Thaksin’s previous business dealing with the Than Shwe regime in Burma, Yingluck spokeswoman Thitima refused to answer any further questions and ended the interview.
Reported by Ingjin Naing for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.