Aung Suu Kyi party seeks talks with Myanmar's generals

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2011 9:03 AM

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - The party of Myamar's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, called on Sunday for talks with the country's military rulers to clear up "misunderstandings" before a new government takes office.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) reiterated its demand for talks with the military, known locally as the "Tatmadaw," to seek the release of more than 2,100 political prisoners and a bigger role for democratic forces in the country's future.

"It is urged that dialogue be held urgently to eliminate the misunderstandings between the democratic forces and the Tatmadaw," the NLD said in a statement.

"The authority should create fair political conditions by holding politically meaningful dialogue and releasing all political prisoners unconditionally."

The call is likely to fall on deaf ears as the authoritarian junta prepares to make way for a civilian government it has hand-picked to maintain its half-century grip on power.

The regime has used everything in its power, from deadly force to contentious court rulings, to sideline the NLD and its supporters since its landslide election win in 1990, which the military ignored.

Suu Kyi was released from a seven-year detention in November last year and wants to start a process of national reconciliation involving the army, pro-democracy groups and ethnic militias that have fought the military for decades.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been given unprecedented freedom since her release but her calls for dialogue have been ignored.

The NLD has no political role because it boycotted last year's long-awaited election, won overwhelmingly by a pro-military party, and was effectively banned by the authorities.

The NLD's decision to continue backing Western sanctions angered the generals, who warned her via their media mouthpieces that she would meet a "tragic end" and demanded her party apologize to the Burmese people for blocking Western investment in the impoverished but resource-rich country.

Suu Kyi said on Sunday she would keep an open mind but hoped to have a better relationship with the new civilian-led government after two decades of animosity with the junta.

Only a handful of serving generals have been given cabinet portfolios but most other ministers are former soldiers who retired specifically to take political roles. The president and one vice-president were the fourth and fifth most powerful figures in the outgoing regime.

Asked if she felt positive about reconciliation, Suu Kyi said: "I'm neither optimistic nor pessimistic. We have to assess the situation objectively, but we hope for improvement in the interests of the nation."

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould)