Oct 17, 2009

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi positive about sanctions meetings: lawyer

Yangon – Myanmar’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said her recent meetings about sanctions with diplomats and a junta minister were positive, her lawyer told AFP Friday.

She held a rare meeting last Friday with top Western diplomats to discuss sanctions imposed on the military-ruled nation, having earlier in the week met twice with Aung Kyi, the official liaison between herself and the junta.

The pair had not met since January 2008.

The meetings followed a letter she wrote to junta chief Than Shwe, which offered suggestions on getting sanctions lifted, marking an easing of her stance after years of advocating punitive measures against the ruling generals.

“Daw Suu sees the meetings as positive and also she expects the meeting process to be effective,” her lawyer Nyan Win said, after meeting with the opposition leader for an hour on Friday. “Daw” is a term of respect in Myanmar.

The Nobel Peace Laureate wants to meet with diplomats again to get more facts and figures about sanctions, Nyan Win said, adding that they would not be releasing any more details of the talks for the moment.

On October 2, Suu Kyi’s appeal against her extended house arrest was rejected by judges, who upheld her August conviction over an incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside house.

The guilty verdict for the frail 64-year-old, who has spent around 14 of the past 20 years in detention, earned her an extra 18 months’ house arrest and provoked international outrage.

Nyan Win said they would now prepare a revision of the appeal to submit to the Supreme Court, which they also discussed with Suu Kyi Friday.

The junta refused to let Suu Kyi take power after the country’s last elections in 1990, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, leading Western countries to impose sanctions.

Her extended house arrest keeps her off the scene for elections promised by the regime next year, adding to criticism that the polls are a sham designed to legitimise the military regime’s grip on power.

The US recently unveiled a major policy shift to re-engage the junta but warned against lifting sanctions until progress is made towards democracy.

Myanmar opposition leader to appeal sentence at Supreme Court

Yangon – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday agreed to allow defence lawyers to appeal to the Supreme Court against her recent sentence to 18 months under house detention.

“We will appeal the case up to the Supreme Court level and are preparing the appeal now,” said Nyan Win, one of four attorneys in Suu Kyi’s defence team.

Nyan Win met with Suu Kyi Friday afternoon at her house-cum-prison in Yangon, where she had spent 14 of the past 20 years under detention.

On October 2, the Yangon Division Court rejected Suu Kyi’s appeal against a lower court’s verdict on August 11 that found her guilty of violating the terms of her previous imprisonment by allowing US national John Yettaw to swim to her house of detention, a family compound that sits on Inya Lake.

Originally the Insein Prison Court sentenced Suu Kyi to three years in jail, but the term was commuted to 18 months under house detention by Myanmar’s junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe.

The detention term is sufficient to keep Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party, out of the picture while the junta stages a general election some time next year.

The election is expected to be neither free nor fair.

The NLD won the last election of 1990 buy a landslide, but was blocked from assuming power by the military which has ruled Myanmar since 1962.

Oct 14, 2009

Agence France Presse: Suu Kyi back in Myanmar’s political arena

Bangkok — Although still under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has returned to an active political role by initiating dialogue with both Myanmar’s junta and Western nations, analysts say.

In the space of seven days, after a Yangon court rejected the pro-democracy leader’s appeal against her recently extended house arrest, her status appeared to shift rapidly from political prisoner to potential key negotiator.

“She is politically active and significant. She still has a role in Burma,” said Win Min, an activist and scholar in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, using Myanmar’s former name.

Events over the past week in the military-ruled nation have moved at a dizzying pace when compared with the stagnation of recent months.

Suu Kyi, detained for around 14 of the past 20 years, had two meetings with Aung Kyi, the labour minister and official liaison between her and the junta, the first such talks since January 2008.

The frail 64-year-old was subsequently granted permission by the ruling generals to discuss Western sanctions imposed on Myanmar with top United States, British and Australian diplomats in Yangon on Friday.

“She was very very engaged in the subject, very interested in going into detail on what she wanted to talk about and she seemed as ever very eloquent,” said British ambassador Andrew Heyn in an interview with BBC.

Suu Kyi wrote a letter to Senior General Than Shwe at the end of September offering her co-operation in getting Western sanctions lifted, after years of favouring harsh measures against the generals.

Contrary to expectations, the junta chief seems to have accepted her proposal — at least for the time being.

“She would like to see herself as a pivotal point in the relations between the junta and the US. They might be prepared to allow this to some extent,” said former British ambassador Derek Tonkin.

The military regime has promised elections for 2010, the first in Myanmar since 1990, when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide but was never allowed to take power.

With the opposition leader set to remain out of the way next year thanks to the recent 18-month extension to her house arrest, many observers believe the polls are a sham that will only strengthen the junta’s power.

The reclusive regime chief, according to some analysts, is likely to try to use his opponent — whom he loathes — to restore his image for the elections.

“Than Shwe is the only one who took all these decisions,” said the activist Win Min, referring to the rejection of Suu Kyi’s appeal and her various subsequent meetings in recent days.

“He decided not to release her but to give her a little bit of freedom so that he could appear somehow as someone flexible,” he added.

But Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win was confident she could play an increasingly important part in developments over the coming months, especially following Washington’s recent decision to re-engage the junta.

“We assume that her meeting with diplomats to lift sanctions is the start of her political role because sanctions themselves are a matter of politics,” Nyan Win told AFP.

“Aung San Suu Kyi always has the right to participate in politics. It is not a concern whether or not she’s under house arrest,” he added.

Yet scepticism remains that the iron-fisted regime could repeat past behaviour and offer goodwill gestures before violently closing all doors to dialogue again.

One fundamental sign of progress would be a meeting between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe himself, as the pair have not met for years. Nyan Win raised the possibility of such talks on Friday.

But “The Lady”, as she is widely known in Myanmar, would have to consult with other NLD members first and also see minister Aung Kyi again before a meeting with the junta leader would be possible, former ambassador Tonkin suggested.

He acknowledged however that the two sides were at least finally communicating.

“We don’t know where this conversation is going to go. But it is taking place. It’s the best game in town at the present time and we need to see where it goes,” he said.”>

President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: Statement in support of a global arms embargo on Burma – Jose Ramos-Horta

Earlier this month, Burma’s military regime provided a further example of its extraordinary inhumanity and intransigence, with its decision to reject the appeal by my fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against the verdict last month which imposed a further term of eighteen months under house arrest. I deplore this decision, and call for her immediate and unconditional release.

The events of the past two years in Burma have shocked the world. The military regime’s brutal suppression of the peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007, followed by the assassination of Karen leader Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, the tragedy of Cyclone Nargis, the sham constitutional referendum, the escalation in the military offensive against civilians in eastern Burma, the famine in Chin State, attacks on ethnic groups on the China-Burma border and the trial and continued imprisonment of my fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are all examples of the desperate political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma today.