Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she is ready to cooperate with Burma’s military junta to pursue national reconciliation, in a statement released by a UN envoy Thursday November 8. “In the interest of the nation I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success,” said Suu Kyi in a statement released by the envoy, Ibrahim Gambari.
A UN press release earlier said that Suu Kyi, whom Gambari met just before leaving Burma late Thursday November 8 afternoon, had authorised him to release the statement.
Gambari read Suu Kyi’s statement in Singapore, where he flew after leaving Burma. He spoke shortly after Burma’s government announced that it will allow Suu Kyi to meet fellow executives of her party Friday, their first such meeting in more than three-years.
The announcement, made on the state radio and television evening news, came shortly after Gambari left Burma, with the world body saying he had made progress in his six-day mission.
Suu Kyi has been detained since May 2003, and has not seen fellow executive members of her National League for Democracy since May 2004. The 1991 Nobel peace laureate has spent 12 of the last 18 years in government custody.
Earlier, there had been signs that Gambari’s mission did not go well, including his failure to be received by junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and the junta’s rejection of Gambari’s proposal of a three-way meeting involving Suu Kyi, a junta member and himself. “We now have a process going which would lead to substantive dialogue” between the government and Suu Kyi, said a UN statement issued shortly after Gambari’s departure.
The statement from Suu Kyi is apparently the first message since she was detained, as well as the first public opportunity to gauge her reaction to September’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and the UN mediation efforts afterward.
Gambari met Suu Kyi for an hour Thursday November 8. He is supposed to return to UN headquarters in New York by Monday.
Gambari has been invited by the government to return to Burma, also known as Burma, and expects to do so in the next few weeks, said the UN statement.
The Burma state radio announcement that Suu Kyi would meet fellow executives of her National League for Democracy party said that Aung Kyi, the government minister in charge of relations with the opposition leader, would see her first to make arrangements.
There are nine central executive committee members in Suu Kyi’s party. One, her deputy, Tin Oo, is also under house arrest. It was not clear if he would be allowed to attend the meeting.
“Our leaders have repeatedly requested for a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and we welcome the development,” said Nyan Win, a spokesman for her party. ‘Daw’ is an honorific used in speaking of older women.
Suu Kyi was last allowed to meet fellow party executives in May 2004, to discuss whether to participate in the junta’s National Convention to draw up guidelines for a new constitution. The party declined to attend, complaining that the process was undemocratic.
The convention completed its task in early September this year. It was the first step in the junta’s seven-stage “road map” to democracy, which is supposed to culminate in free elections at an unspecified point in the future.
Suu Kyi made her first public appearance since her 2003 detention when she stood at the gate of her Yangon home on September 22 as several hundred pro-democracy demonstrators were allowed to march past her house.
Marchers were not allowed past her home a second time, and the protests were smashed by the military on September 26-27, when the authorities by their own count killed 10 people, though diplomats and dissidents say the death toll was much higher. Thousands of people were arrested in the aftermath.
The crackdown triggered intense international pressure to start political reforms and talk with the country’s democracy movement. Gambari was sent to Burma by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a mandate to promote political reconciliation after the UN Security Council condemned the crackdown.