News / Asia

Burma Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Meets Government Official

Burma's Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, right, reads a statement to the media after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, left, at Seinlekhanthar government guest house in Yangon, July 25, 2011
Burma's Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, right, reads a statement to the media after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, left, at Seinlekhanthar government guest house in Yangon, July 25, 2011
Daniel Schearf

Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has met with an official of the new government, the first such meeting since her release from house arrest. The meeting raises hopes for a regular dialogue between her and the military-dominated government. But, there is skepticism that the talks will lead to genuine reforms.

Burma’s Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi says he and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talked about the rule of law and cooperating in the interests of the country and people. Reading a statement to journalists after their meeting Monday, he said they both viewed the discussion positively and that they would meet again.

It was the first time a government official met with the Aung San Suu Kyi since she was released from house arrest after last year’s election.

She has sought a dialogue with the government on improving the country’s poor human rights record and efforts at democracy.

Zin Linn, a spokesman for the Burma government in exile in Thailand, says there are worries that the meeting, like past ones, is just for show. He points out the two met nine times while Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest, with little to show for it.

"If they are really going along to the democracy path, they should release the political prisoners," said Zin Linn. "So, they should release these political prisoners and stop fighting against the ethnic peoples. And also, they should first of all reform their law and order system. There is no law at all in Burma."

The meeting came just days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for dialogue between the two sides at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Indonesia.

Burma hopes hold ASEAN’s rotating chair in 2014. Zin Linn says the government may want to deflect international opposition to the idea.

"So, that's why this time also I think due to the U.S. pressure and also they have a proposal to the ASEAN to have their chair in 2014, to pass such difficulties, I think they show this talk as a softened stance," said Zin Linn.

Despite the skepticism, there are signs of improved relations between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Earlier this month, officials invited her to a ceremony honoring her late father, a hero of Burma’s struggle for independence.

Burma’s nominally civilian government took office in March after decades of direct military rule.

But the election in November was widely condemned as a sham designed to disguise continued military rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi was banned from participating and the government disbanded her National League for Democracy, the largest opposition, for boycotting the polls.

A military-backed party won the controversial elections amid reports of widespread fraud and intimidation.

The NLD won Burma’s previous election in 1990 by a landslide but the military refused to let it take power.

The military government arrested opposition leaders, and many were forced to flee the country.

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