Myanmar's Suu Kyi proposes cooperation with junta

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2009 10:16 AM

Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is ready to cooperate with Myanmar's ruling junta in lifting foreign sanctions but it remains uncertain if the reconciliation efforts will yield results.

In a letter to junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe released Tuesday, Suu Kyi has requested a meeting to explain how she would cooperate in tasks "beneficial to the country." She does not specify what those might be.

"The letter is very significant. It clearly shows Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's willingness to work with the government in the interest of the nation," said her National League for Democracy party spokesman Nyan Win. 'Daw' is a term of respect used for older women.

The party, which released the text, had previously described in general terms the contents of the letter, dated Nov. 11. The government has yet to respond.

Suu Kyi's initiative is the latest move to try to break the political deadlock that began when the NLD won a 1990 general election. The military refused to allow it to take power and increased repression of the country's pro-democracy movement, causing the United States and another Western nations to isolate it with economic and political sanctions.

However, the Obama administration, acknowledging that such moves failed to foster reforms, is now seeking to engage it through high-level talks instead of simply applying sanctions.

It's difficult to judge the significance of the latest moves, said Donald Seekins, a Myanmar expert at Japan's Meio University, noting that there have been previous stillborn attempts at reconciliation.

"They tend to warm up and then get very cold again, depending upon the general political circumstances," he said.

Seekins speculated that the junta's reaction to the U.S. initiative might depend on whether it wants to loosen its close ties with China, its neighbor and closest ally.

This is the second letter Suu Kyi sent to the junta leader since August, when she was sentenced to 18 months' more house arrest for harboring an uninvited American citizen. She has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

In September, she wrote to Than Shwe stating her willingness to cooperate with the military government to have international sanctions eased _ an apparent shift in her position. She had previously welcomed sanctions as a way to pressure the junta to come to an accommodation with the pro-democracy movement.

In her new letter, she also seeks permission to meet with the NLD's central executive committee members and visit old and ailing party leaders.

"She has taken up an approach that cannot be rejected and we are all very hopeful that the government will respond positively to her letter and we hope for a positive outcome," said Nyan Win.


Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok, Thailand, contributed to this report.