BANGKOK—Burma’s most prominent opposition group hopes the ruling junta will grant a request by party leader Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with her policymakers despite her house arrest, party spokesmen said.
The request is the second of three sent in open letters to junta leader General Than Shwe by National League for Democracy (NLD) party secretary Aung San Suu Kyi.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s first request—to meet with three elderly members of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee—was granted Wednesday after negotiations with government liaison Aung Kyi began in October.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win said he was optimistic that the Nobel Peace Laureate would be permitted to hold a meeting to appoint new members to the party’s central executive committee and remained hopeful that the regime would grant her a meeting with junta leader General Than Shwe.
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s request in her letter has been permitted and we also hope that her last request will be met,” he said, referring to a proposed September meeting with Than Shwe to discuss political reforms for Burma that could lead to an easing of U.S. and European Union sanctions.
In the September letter, Aung San Suu Kyi also requested a meeting with senior Western diplomats in Rangoon, which she was granted.
U.S. and EU officials have said they would reconsider sanctions against Burma in favor of greater engagement if the military regime is willing to accept reforms.
Veteran NLD politician Thakin Chan Htun also welcomed the news that Aung San Suu Kyi’s first request had been met, adding that a meeting with Than Shwe would be “the best way” for the regime to solve Burma’s problems.
“I hope and pray it … will happen soon. I also pray that from this meeting they will be able to discuss important issues … I also encourage them to meet soon, for this is the best way to solve problems,” Thakin Chan Htun said.
Meeting with party elders
NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi was granted a visit with the three senior members of the NLD Central Executive Committee Wednesday morning after the chief of police in the former capital of Rangoon met with all four separately.
Aung San Suu Kyi had originally asked to visit each of the members, all of whom are over 80 years old and suffering from poor health, individually at their homes. But authorities would only allow the four to meet together at a junta-appointed guesthouse.
The opposition party leader met with party chairman Aung Shwe, secretary Lwin, and executive committee member Lun Tin.
“This morning we met with the elders for … about one hour [at] the Green Bank government guesthouse,” Nyan Win said.
“[Aung San Suu Kyi] thanked the three leaders for their continued support as well as their work with the NLD. She also discussed the necessity to reorganize the NLD Central Executive Committee, and the three elderly leaders accepted her request,” he said.
Most of the party's current 11-member committee are elderly.
In a briefing Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said the Obama administration was pleased with the decision by Burmese authorities to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to pay her respects to the members of the Central Executive Committee.
“We hope this is a step towards a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy,” the spokesperson said.
“We continue to urge the Burmese Government to engage Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition, ethnic leaders, and other stakeholders in a genuine dialogue to find a positive way ahead for the country.”
Targeted by junta
Aung San Suu Kyi was ordered in August to spend a further 18 months in detention after being convicted of breaking the terms of her house arrest when an American man swam to her home.
The opposition leader has been held under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years.
The country's supreme court will hear a final appeal against Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest on Monday, after a lower court rejected an appeal in October.
The extension of her detention, after being convicted in a trial at Rangoon's Insein Prison, sparked international outrage as the ruling will prevent her from taking part in Burma’s upcoming 2010 elections.
The proposed elections will be the first since 1990, when the junta refused to recognize a landslide victory by the NLD.
The junta has recently made other concessions, allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to speak with the media in November after she held talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the most senior U.S. official to visit Burma in 14 years.
Original reporting by Maung Maung Nyo and Kyaw Min Htun for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated by Nyein Shwe. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.