Saturday, 8 May 2010

Burma likely to let US envoy meet Suu Kyi

Burma's junta is likely to let US envoy Kurt Campbell meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, paving the way for him to visit the country next week, an official told AFP Saturday.

This 2009 photo shows Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at a hotel in Rangoon. Burma's junta is likely to let US envoy Kurt Campbell meet detained opposition leader San Suu Kyi, paving the way for him to visit the country next week

On Friday the US State Department said Campbell, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, would only go ahead with the visit if he were allowed to see Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition members.

Suu Kyi, 64, has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years. Campbell met her in Rangoon last November when he became the highest-ranking US official to visit Burma in 14 years, part of a new policy by President Barack Obama of engagement with the military-ruled country.

Burma officials told AFP that Campbell would spend three days in Burma next week, including talks Monday with the decision-making committee of Suu Kyi's disbanded party, the National League for Democracy.

"He will meet with nine Central Executive Committee members on Monday. He's also likely to meet with... Aung San Suu Kyi on that day. But it's not confirmed yet," one official said on condition of anonymity.

The officials said Campbell was also scheduled to travel to Burma's remote capital Naypyidaw to meet members of the regime, before returning to the country's main city Rangoon.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) was forcibly dissolved Thursday under widely criticised laws governing elections that are scheduled for later this year -- the first in Burma for two decades.

Former top party members said they expected Campbell to meet them and their leader, and that they would urge him to push for a dialogue between the junta and the democracy campaigners.

"We were informed to wait tentatively on Monday to meet with Mr Campbell," said Tin Oo, who was the NLD's vice-chairman.

"We also heard he will meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi separately," he said. "Daw" is a term of respect in Burma.

"We will discuss with him the matter of the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners" as well as the need for the regime to make its election plans more credible, said Tin Oo.

He said their meeting with Campbell would take place at a US diplomatic residence in Rangoon as they could no longer conduct business at their long-time party headquarters.

The NLD refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a party -- a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader -- and boycotted the vote, which critics say is a sham designed to legitimize the junta's grip on power.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962. The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 elections but the junta never allowed them to take office.

Obama's administration last year launched a policy of engaging the junta in a bid to promote democracy and improve human rights, but has since sharply criticized the junta's approach to elections.

A faction within the NLD said this week it would form a new political party but has not decided whether to run in the elections.

The boycott decision reportedly caused a split in the party between a hardline old guard and a new generation of moderate members who favour greater pragmatism.

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