Suu Kyi meets military chief to discuss handover

Aung San Suu Kyi is aware that she must keep the military on side. Source: Wikimedia

The leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi has held talks on the transfer of power with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, before a parliament dominated by her MPs convenes on February 1.

It was the second meeting between the pair since Suu Kyi party won nearly 80 per cent of contested seats in November’s election, ensuring that Myanmar should see its first democratically elected government since the military took power in 1962.

Under the 2008 junta-drafted constitution, the armed forces are guaranteed a quarter of the parliamentary seats, a veto on all constitutional change and control of three vital ministries.

“Both sides cordially exchanged views on transition and peace and stability in the post-election period, the parliamentary affairs, the formation of the new government,” said an English post on Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page.

A large proportion of Myanmar’s political announcements take place on Facebook.

Monday’s talks lasted for about two hours. The notorious Section 59(F) of the constitution bars Suu Kyi from becoming president because her children have British citizenship. The NLD leader says she will appoint a ceremonial president and lead the country “staying above the president”.

One of the party’s many top priorities is a constitutional amendment to allow her to become president, although the NLD has promised to pursue gradual reform rather than revolutionary change.

The party also has numerous interests groups telling it what its top priority should be.

Suu Kyi has also met Than Shwe, the former leader of the military junta who retired in 2011 when a quasi-civilian government took power.

Tin Myo Win, Suu Kyi’s long-time personal physician, was at the meeting despite not regularly attending NLD leadership meetings.

There are suggestions he may be named president due to his close relationship with Suu Kyi.

The former political prisoner was one of the few people allowed to visit Suu Kyi when she was under house arrest.

Tin Myo Win has refused to comment on the speculation.

In further signs that Myanmar is opening up to democracy, 102 prisoners were freed last week, including 52 political prisoners, bringing the number of political detainees released under President Thein Sein to more than 1,200.

Hundreds of students who were detained on March 10 last year for peacefully protesting against the controversial National Education Law remain bars because they have not been sentenced.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 409 political prisoners were still on trial and 84 remained behind bars after sentencing.

Among those released was Phillip Blackwood, a New Zealander who was sentenced to two and a half years in jail along with two Myanmar colleagues for using a psychedelic image of Buddha as a DJ wearing headphones to promote the V Gastro bar in Yangon.

“President Thein Sein has an opportunity to make this right before his administration ends,” said Matthew Smith of the NGO Fortify Rights. “He should release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.”