Myanmar high-level meeting political talks consider reforms

AP News
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Posted: Apr 11, 2015 12:23 AM
Myanmar high-level meeting political talks consider reforms

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi held talks with Myanmar's top political and military leaders in what a government spokesman described as a "successful meeting," but there was no sign the participants bridged their differences on political reforms ahead of an election later this year.

Without at least a broad agreement, the participation of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in the polls is in doubt. It feels that several clauses in the constitution are unfair, including one that does not allow Suu Kyi to become president because her sons are foreign citizens. Ethnic minority parties also want changes in the constitution, which was enacted under military rule in 2008.

A boycott could give the international community the perception of an unfair election, and lead to a slowdown in aid that is needed to boost Myanmar's economy. Moves toward democracy under President Thein Sein led many Western countries to ease sanctions they had in place against the previous military regime.

The unprecedented talks at the presidential house in Naypyitaw brought together Thein Sein, Suu Kyi, top military commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the speaker and the president of both houses of parliament and a representative of ethnic minorities, Aye Maung.

In his introductory remarks, Thein Sein said "personal and political party interests should be set aside and work be done in the interest of the country." He also mentioned the importance of a free and fair election.

President spokesman and Information Minister Ye Htut told reporters the two-hour gathering was held in "a frank and open manner and all agreed that it was a successful meeting." The participants agreed to meet again when the parliament reopens, he said. The assembly resumes work on May 11.

He said the meeting discussed constitutional amendments, the ethnic peace process, a free and fair election and stability in the postelection period.

Political analyst Yan Myo Thein said he was disappointed with the talks because they appeared to lack substance.

"The results of the talks are not very encouraging," he said. "We hoped to hear more positive news."

However, lawmaker Thein Nyunt, chairman of New National League for Democracy, and Aye Maung both said the talks went well with all parties sharing their views.

"What is important is that these talks continue and this should lead to the kind of agreements that will smooth the way to free, fair, inclusive elections," Suu Kyi told reporters Thursday ahead of the talks. She declined to say if her party would boycott the elections if she finds conditions unacceptable, as she has suggested in the past.

The National League for Democracy is considered to have a strong chance of defeating Thein Sein's military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Suu Kyi's party boycotted the 2010 polls because it believed the legal conditions were unacceptable. It participated in 2012 by-elections after some rules were amended, and won 43 of the 44 seats it contested.