October 7, 2009 / 11:07 AM / 10 years ago

Myanmar minister meets detained democracy icon Suu Kyi

YANGON (Reuters) - Detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi met a high-level official in Myanmar’s military-ruled government for a second time in a week following her offer to lobby the West to lift sanctions.

Activists from Myanmar chant slogans at a protest demanding the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Seoul August 18, 2009. REUTERS/Choi Bu-Seok

A source in Myanmar’s Home Ministry said Suu Kyi held talks at a state guest house for 25 minutes with Labor Minister Aung Kyi, a go-between who has met the Nobel Peace Prize winner seven times in the last two years.

The two met on Saturday for the first time since January 2008, but neither Suu Kyi, detained for 14 of the last 20 years, nor the junta revealed what was discussed.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Nyan Win, had not been informed of the talks and said he was denied access to Suu Kyi to discuss her appeal to the Supreme Court over her 18-month sentence for a security breach while under house arrest in May.

“We hope to find out what was discussed when we meet again,” said Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

“It seems Aung Kyi is conveying messages between (junta leader) Than Shwe and Suu Kyi.”

SANCTIONS INEFFECTIVE

Suu Kyi made a formal offer to the regime on September 25 to meet Western diplomats to discuss the impact of sanctions, which critics say have been ineffective and have hurt the Burmese people. She has said she is willing to work with the generals and use her influence to mediate with the West.

The United States held talks last week with representatives of the Myanmar government but emphasized that the lifting of sanctions would be a mistake because the regime has yet to improve its human rights record.

The talks came after Myanmar last month sent its prime minister to the U.N. General Assembly for the first time in 14 years, a move seen by analysts as part of a charm offensive to court international support for the polls.

Aung Zaw, editor of the Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine, suggested the generals were using Suu Kyi for their own gain and warned not to expect any substantive change.

“When they’re pushed into a corner, they always have a card to play, and this time, it’s Aung San Suu Kyi,” he told Reuters.

“We hope something will come out of this. If it does, it will take a long time, but I really don’t think the regime will change.”

Suu Kyi was found guilty in August of breaking a law protecting the state from “subversive elements” when, while under house arrest, she allowed an American intruder to stay at her lakeside home for two nights.

The ruling sparked international outrage and was widely dismissed as a ploy to keep Suu Kyi out of next year’s elections, the first since 1990, when her National League for Democracy scored a landslide victory that the junta refused to recognize.

Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Jason Szep

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