Suu Kyi opens talks amid transition jitters

Myanmar opposition leader begins 'reconciliation' process after landslide win

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi (right) yesterday held a closed-door meeting with Myanmar's parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann (left) with whom she has developed an amicable working relationship.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi (right) yesterday held a closed-door meeting with Myanmar's parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann (left) with whom she has developed an amicable working relationship.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NAYPYIDAW • Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Myanmar's influential parliamentary Speaker yesterday for key talks as the country moves from decades of military rule towards democracy after landmark polls this month.

Uncertainty surrounds the protracted handover, after Ms Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) swept to victory in the Nov 8 polls, the first free and fair elections in a quarter-century.

Her closed-door meeting with former general Shwe Mann, with whom she has developed an amicable working relationship, was confidential, according to NLD spokesman Win Htein.

"We are working on important matters for the country," he said.

Ms Suu Kyi also met ambassadors from countries including Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain in one of the Parliament buildings yesterday, a day after receiving the Chinese ambassador.

Mr Shwe Mann had at one point been tipped as a potential compromise candidate for president until he was ousted from the leadership of the army-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in August, and then lost his constituency race in the elections.

But he continues to wield influence as Speaker of the combined national Parliament.

The meeting is the first of three national reconciliation discussions set to take place, including with the President and army chief.

Much of the uncertainty over Myanmar's transition is over who will be the next president - a role denied to Ms Suu Kyi by the army-drafted Constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner. She has requested talks with President Thein Sein and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing to try to smooth a delicate transition that will further chip away at the military's influence.

Both men have agreed to the meetings and congratulated Ms Suu Kyi on her victory in the first polls the party has contested in 25 years. But a date for talks has not yet materialised, and officials in the President's office indicate it could be weeks before they can go ahead.

This has jarred nerves in Myanmar, where the NLD's 1990 electoral landslide was ignored by the then ruling junta, which held onto power for two decades before ceding to a quasi-civilian regime in 2011.

Mr Thein Sein, who will remain in office until March under Myanmar's complex systesweepingm, which enshrines a lengthy power handover, will wait until after "all the processes of the election" are completed, the President's Office director Zaw Htay told Agence France-Presse.

This could be protracted as election officials wait for final results from a handful of constituencies, while also processing complaints of irregularities from some candidates.

Ms Suu Kyi has opted to take a modest approach to victory so far, dampening celebrations despite her party's 80 per cent majority in the combined national Parliament.



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Suu Kyi opens talks amid transition jitters'. Subscribe