Thein Sein, Suu Kyi in New Talks

Their third meeting aimed at assessing reforms comes amid tensions in Rakhine state.

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Aung San Suu Kyi (L) with President Thein Sein (R) during their first meeting in Naypyidaw, Aug. 19, 2011.

Burma's President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday held their third round of talks in a year on a range of issues believed to include evolving reforms and easing ethnic conflict in the country.

The meeting came as the government gave rare approval to a visit by a 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) team to the troubled Burmese state of Rakhine amid concerns of human rights abuses on the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingya.

Government and opposition officials confirmed the meeting between the two leaders, the first since Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as member of parliament in May and the third since August last year when maiden talks between the two were held.

Like the previous two meetings, no details were released of the latest talks, held at the country's capital Naypyidaw and attended also by key Cabinet ministers, including Soe Thane, who leads a government panel conducting peace talks with ethnic groups.

The Thein Sein-Aung San Suu Kyi meeting was aimed at finding a broad consensus on political and other reforms and bringing an end to long running ethnic conflicts in the country, according to various officials.

Suu Kyi was recently appointed to lead a parliamentary committee on the rule of law and in her inaugural address to the legislature last month sought laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.

President Thein Sein's administration, which came to power in March last year after decades of brutal military rule, has struck ceasefire agreements with 10 ethnic armed groups but fighting continues with other groups such as those in Kachin state in the north which has displaced tens of thousands of people.

Recent clashes between Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state in the west of the country have also left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.

International pressure

The Burmese government has come under international pressure over the June clashes after the United Nations voiced concerns of a crackdown on Rohingya and Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging abuses by security forces in the region.

Aung San Suu Kyi had said that "the most important lesson" from the Rakhine conflict is the country’s “need for rule of law,” which she added is also key to resolving the numerous armed ethnic conflicts in the country.

In what is seen as a conciliatory move, Thein Sein has agreed to allow the OIC to deliver "urgent aid" to displaced Rohingyas, the global Muslim group said in a statement on its website at the weekend.

The approval came after he met Friday with an OIC delegation led by Jusuf Kalla, a former Indonesian Vice-President, the statement said.

The delegation briefed the president "on the concern of the Muslim world about the ongoing regrettable developments in the humanitarian situation in [Rakhine state] and on the readiness of the OIC to deliver urgent assistance to the entire [Rakhine state], without discrimination," according to the statement.

Saudi, Turkish aid

In a separate report, Saudi Arabia said its leader, King Abdullah, has ordered U.S. $50 million in aid to be sent to the Ronhingya in Rakhine. Last week Turkey announced similar financial assistance.

A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Rohingya community had been "exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement," according to Reuters.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu flew to Sittwe, Rakhine's capital, last week to assess the humanitarian needs following the June violence and is expected to brief an OIC summit in Mecca on Tuesday on the latest situation, reports say.

Reported by RFA's Burmese service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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