Suu Kyi meets army chief and president

President Thein Sein has promised a peaceful transfer of power. Source:Wikimedia

Myanmar’s victorious National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi has held direct talks with the nation’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing for the first time as she prepares to form a government in a country where the military still has a significant grip on power.

Earlier, the Nobel laureate met President Thein Sein to discuss the transfer of power to the NLD, which won an electoral landslide on November 8.

It is widely acknowledged that Suu Kyi cannot govern without the military’s acceptance.

No aides were present at the two meetings but both were reportedly convivial.

Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest by the military for years after her 1990 election victory was ignored by the generals.

Despite the NLD’s victory, the military retains control of the interior, defence and border affairs ministries under the 2008 Constitution which was drafted by the junta.

The electorate is watching the situation closely as Myanmar has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power.

Nay Phone Latt, a new NLD MP, said: “The NLD has to think about how to work with the military,” adding that the military’s response to the election so far was “very good”.

Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, said Suu Kyi’s 45-minute meeting with the president, a former general, centred on the transfer of power.

Although not due to take power until the new year, the NLD has started its diplomatic rounds.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win is leading a delegation to Japan for a week. It includes meetings with political leaders and visits to cultural highlights like Kyoto.

“Our victory in the general election is the victory of the people,” said Nyan Win. “For Myanmar this is the first step to democracy. Our new administration must make much effort.”

Japanese Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi said of the NLD leader: “I watched The Lady, a movie about Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, with tears. Including my view on that, I wrote a letter to her to congratulate her on her victory. It was close to writing a fan letter.”

Nyan Win met Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida, who has invited Suu Kyi to visit Japan. He said Tokyo wanted dialogue with the new administration.

He stressed the importance of Japanese investment and technology in Myanmar, where about 280 Japanese companies operate and another 600 have licences to open up.

The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) said construction firms currently top the list of Japanese companies in Myanmar although the involvement was diversifying.

JETRO Yangon managing director Hiro Yamaoka said firms were cautious amid fears the change of government could affect their business, adding that he was trying to ease concerns.

“Myanmar will be a player in the global economy,” he said. “It will accept foreign firms for industrialisation and push forward modernisation of commerce.”

Japan is keen to gain access to Myanmar’s plentiful natural resources to compete with China and Thailand which have a significant presence in that sector.

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