Australia's Rudd says Suu Kyi will tour outside Yangon

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 02, 2011 12:13 PM
Australia's Rudd says Suu Kyi will tour outside Yangon

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd met Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on Saturday and said she still intended to go on a tour outside the city despite government warnings.

Suu Kyi plans to join her son, Kim, on a four-day pilgrimage from July 4 to Bagan, an ancient city about 700 km (435 miles) north of Yangon, her first trip outside her home city since she was released from a seven-year stint of house arrest last November.

Several government-run newspapers in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, carried commentaries this week warning of "chaos and riots" if Suu Kyi went ahead.

"I think it is clear that she is resolved to (hold a) tour in the country and that is what she intends to do," Rudd told reporters in Singapore. He was flying back after a visit to Myanmar, where he met Suu Kyi over lunch on Saturday at the Australian Embassy in Yangon.

"I don't want to go into detail on where she plans to visit and when, I think that's entirely a matter for her and the NLD (National League for Democracy)."

During the Nobel laureate's last tour in 2003, thugs believed to be hired by the then ruling military junta ambushed her motorcade. More than 70 of her supporters were killed in the incident, known as the Depayin Massacre.

It was widely seen as an assassination attempt on Suu Kyi, who was put back under house arrest, or what the regime called "protective custody."

"It is absolutely critical that the Burmese government guarantees Aung San Suu Kyi's security while such a tour of the country is undertaken, and I believe all governments around the world will be looking very carefully at how security is provided for by the government," Rudd said.

He said Australia was also demanding the release of an estimated 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar.

Myanmar's government insists there are no political prisoners in its jails. Rights groups say hundreds of jailed politicians, students and activists were convicted on trumped-up charges to justify their incarceration.

Rudd added that Suu Kyi, 66, was in good spirits.

"She is in very robust mind, she is a very determined person," he said. "It was to me a great honor to spend time with her."

(Reporting by Harry Suhartono; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)