Myanmar's Suu Kyi 'may be freed'

Senior official hints at possible release of Myanmar's detained opposition leader.

    Augn San Suu Kyi has been held in jail or under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years [AFP]

    Nyan Win, a lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi, told Al Jazeera that she had not received official notification that she may be freed.

    Policy of engagement

    Hints of a possible release come amid a shift in US policy with Myanmar.

    Kurt Campbell was the most senior US official to meet Aung San Suu Kyi since 1995 [AFP]
    Previous US administrations had isolated the country, but Barack Obama has chosen instead to follow a policy of engagement with the country.

    Last week, Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state, and Scott Marciel, his deputy, became the most senior US officials to visit Myanmar since 1995.

    The two envoys held talks with senior figures from the government, including Myanmar's prime minister, Thein Sein, but not Than Shwe, the general who has ruled the country for the last 17 years.

    They also held talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.

    On Monday, Aung San Suu Kyi, expressed hope that US engagement with the county's military rulers could spur democratic reforms her lawyer, Nyan Win, said.

    In rare praise, Aung San Suu Kyi thanked the government for allowing her to meet the US envoys.

    "She told us she was quite satisfied with Mr Campbell's visit ... she said he's the sort of person we can work with," Nyan Win told reporters.

    Singapore meeting

    Later this week Obama is due to meet leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Singapore, for talks that could bring him into direct contact with Thein Sein.

    The last US president to meet a senior leader from Myanmar was Lyndon Johnson, who held talks with prime minister Ne Win in 1966.

    However, administration officials in Washington said Obama does not intend to speak directly with Thein Sein.

    "The meeting is with the 10 heads of state and government of Asean. One of them will be the prime minister of Burma," Jeffrey Bader, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, told a news conference on Monday.

    "The meeting is not called for the purpose of a bilateral or a private conversation between the two," he said.

    Myanmar's military government has been almost universally shunned by the West over its poor rights record and refusal to allow free elections.

    This has also kept previous US presidents from meeting with all 10 members of Asean.

    "The statement we're trying to make here is that we're not going to let the Burmese tail wag the Asean dog. We are going to meet with all 10 and we're not going to punish the other nine simply because the Burma is in the room," Bader said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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