x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Suu Kyi meets junta again

The detained pro-democracy leader holds talks with a junta official, the second such meeting within a week following her call for a new era of co-operation.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - The detained Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi held talks today with a junta official, the second such meeting within a week following her call for a new era of co-operation, official sources said. The unannounced meeting between Suu Kyi and the relations minister Aung Kyi was taking place at a government guesthouse near her lakeside home in Yangon, according to officials. Details of the talks were not immediately known.

The meetings follow a letter Suu Kyi sent late last month to the junta chief Senior Gen Than Shwe. In it, she said she is willing to co-operate with the junta in having international sanctions lifted and proposed that she meet with Western diplomats to discuss the measures, according to her National League for Democracy party. The letter appeared to be a confidence-building gesture to the junta. The Nobel Prize winner, 64, had previously welcomed sanctions as a way to pressure the junta to achieve political reconciliation with the pro-democracy movement.

The movement has insisted on concessions from the government if they are to work together, particularly the freeing of political prisoners and the reopening of party offices around the country. Suu Kyi's meeting with Aung Kyi was their seventh since his post was created in October 2007. The job of relations minister was created at the urging of the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari after the UN Security Council urged the junta to open talks with the pro-democracy movement. Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years.

On Friday, a court rejected Suu Kyi's appeal against the extension of her widely condemned house arrest. The decision was expected and was another reminder that the military junta treads warily when considering concessions to the opposition or improving relations with the West. The United States announced last week that it is modifying its tough policy of isolating the military regime and will instead try to engage the junta through high-level talks.

Washington said it will still maintain its political and economic sanctions against the regime. It and other Western nations apply sanctions because of Myanmar's poor human rights record and its failure to turn over power to Suu Kyi's party after it won the last elections in 1990. Friday's court ruling against Suu Kyi upheld her August conviction for breaking the terms of her house arrest by briefly sheltering an uninvited American at her home earlier this year.

She was sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest, which means she cannot participate in elections scheduled for next year, the first in Myanmar in two decades. Suu Kyi's legal team said Friday they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court within 60 days. *AP