July 21, 2008 in City

Junta member hints at release

Associated Press
 

SINGAPORE – A senior figure in Myanmar’s military junta has suggested that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be freed from house arrest in about six months, Singapore’s foreign minister said.

Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win made the hint at a Sunday dinner attended by foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their weeklong meeting.

ASEAN later expressed “deep disappointment” at the junta’s decision in May to extend Suu Kyi’s detention by another year – an unprecedented criticism of Myanmar by the region’s main bloc. ASEAN members usually adhere to a policy of not interfering in each other’s domestic affairs.

Nyan Win’s comments are the most optimistic by the junta on Suu Kyi’s future, and the closest Myanmar’s military rulers have come to a timetable for her release, as demanded by the international community.

According to Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo, Nyan Win said that under Myanmar law a political detainee can be held for a maximum of six years.

“And he told us that the six-year limit will come up in about half a year’s time,” Yeo said.

Asked if this means Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, could be released in six months, Yeo said: “That is not an inaccurate inference.”

Although Myanmar’s state-controlled media have said the government has the right to hold Suu Kyi for six years, it is the first time such a senior figure has suggested the possibility of her release in an international forum.

The military regime extended Suu Kyi’s house arrest May 27 for the sixth straight year. She has now been detained for more than 12 of the last 18 years at her home in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

After the dinner meeting, the ASEAN members issued a statement that came down heavily on Myanmar.

“The foreign ministers expressed their deep disappointment that … Suu Kyi’s detention has been extended by the Myanmar government,” it said, adding that the ministers repeated a call for her to be released.

The ministers also urged a “meaningful dialogue with all political groups and work toward a peaceful transition to democracy in the near future.”

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