Myanmar President Thein Sein opens unprecedented talks with Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar President Thein Sein shaking hands with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Lower House member of Parliament prior to their meeting in Naypyidaw on October 31, 2014. Mr Thein Sein opened unprecedented
Myanmar President Thein Sein shaking hands with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Lower House member of Parliament prior to their meeting in Naypyidaw on October 31, 2014. Mr Thein Sein opened unprecedented talks with army top brass and political rivals including Ms Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw ahead of crucial elections next year. -- PHOTO: AFP

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) - Myanmar President Thein Sein opened unprecedented talks with army top brass and political rivals. including Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday ahead of crucial elections next year.

Mr Thein Sein and Ms Suu Kyi walked into the meeting together to begin talks that are the first of their kind in the country as it moves to emerge from decades of outright military rule.

An official said on Friday that Myanmar's Parliament will consider amending the country's Constitution, which currently bars Ms Suu Kyi from becoming president, ahead of elections next year. "They agreed to discuss the issue of amending the Constitution in Parliament, according to the law," presidential spokesman Ye Htut told reporters after the talks.

United States President Barack Obama has called for an "inclusive and credible" elections process next year in Myanmar. He made the comment in telephone talks with Mr Thein Sein, during which the pair also discussed the US President's visit to Myanmar next month, the White House said on Thursday.

"The President welcomed the commitment of Thein Sein and his government to the peace process and said every effort should be made to conclude a national ceasefire in the short term," the statement said. Mr Obama "underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections" and emphasised Washington's "firm commitment to helping the people of Burma achieve a more free, open, and prosperous nation".

He also asked Mr Thein Sein to take "additional steps" to bring peace to the western state of Rakhine, where two waves of deadly violence in 2012 between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims left about 200 people dead and around 140,000 displaced, mainly Rohingya.

Mr Obama also spoke with Ms Suu Kyi about the upcoming elections, and how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment," the White House said.

"Obama expressed his appreciation for Aung San Suu Kyi's work to promote a more democratic Burma," it added.

The meeting comes just days after Myanmar's election authorities announced the upcoming poll would be held in the last week of October or the first week of November 2015. Mr Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has pledged that the vote will be the freest in the modern history of the country, where the military ceded direct power three years ago.

Myanmar's last general elections in 2010 were marred by widespread accusations of cheating and were held without the National League for Democracy or Ms Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who was kept under lock and key until days after the vote.

Since then, Mr Thein Sein has implemented a number of dramatic reforms, and Ms Suu Kyi has entered Parliament.

Her party is expected to win a good number of seats in the legislature in next year's polls, and Parliament will select a president.

But the 69-year-old Ms Suu Kyi - who spent more than a decade under house arrest during the junta years - is currently barred from taking the top job by the Constitution because her late spouse and children are foreign nationals.