08/19/2011, 00.00
MYANMAR

Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein meet for the first time in Naypyidaw

Myanmar’s opposition leader meets the country’s president in the new capital. She is expected to meet other government officials. Critics view the move as an attempt by the “civilian” government to gain legitimacy with the international community. On the internet, Burmese express scepticism, take a wait-and-see attitude.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi today met President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s new capital. A government source confirmed the first “face-to-face” meeting between the pro-democracy leader and an official of the new government, set up after last November’s elections, described as a “farce” by much of the international community.

A government official, who spoke on conditional of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy that Ms Suu Kyi met Thein Sein briefly around 1 pm local time. He added that Suu Kyi also toured the town, which she had seen before.

For some observers, the meeting is an olive branch by the civilian government (albeit mostly military officers who ruled for two decades) to the Nobel Prize laureate and the opposition.

However, critics are less impressed. For them, the encounter was just another attempt by Myanmar rulers to gain legitimacy for the new government vis-à-vis the United States and the European Union. The latter have maintained economic and trade sanctions on the former Burma.

The regime’s softer touch is also part of its campaign to take over the rotating presidency of the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014.

Thein Sein received the NLD leader at the presidential palace. A prominent leader in the former military junta, he was the nice face of a regime that held Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Commenting on Suu Kyi’s trip to Naypyidaw, her close aide and top NLD leader Win Tin said that she would meet other senior government officials.

On the internet, Burmese dissidents are expressing scepticism about the government’s intentions.

Although not a pessimist, one said that any sign of thaw by the regime is usually designed to reduce international pressure.

For another, the recent move was just propaganda.
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