Clinton urges Myanmar to free Suu Kyi

Clinton urges Myanmar to free Suu Kyi

Manila: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called again on Thursday for the unconditional release of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but suggested there could be high-level contacts with the country’s military leaders at a summit this weekend.

She said that Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, had every right, as any person should have to participate in the active democratic life of her country.

“We believe that her detention over so many years is baseless and not founded on any concern other than she is the leader of the political opposition," Clinton said at a news conference in the Philippine capital, Manila.

Clinton called for the opposition to be allowed to take part in the reclusive state’s planned 2010 election.

But she also said that there could be high-level contacts with the former Burma’s junta at a meeting this weekend of Southeast Asian states to be attended by US President Barack Obama—though no formal bilateral meeting was planned.

“First of all there is no meeting," she said adding: “There may very well be an opportunity for the leaders, including myself, including the president, to meet the leaders of Burma, something that we have not done before."

The Obama administration decided in September to pursue deeper engagement with Myanmar to try to spur democratic reforms. Obama will be at the summit in Singapore on Sunday, where Lieutenant General Thein Sein, Myanmar’s Prime Minister, will also be present.

Myanmar’s military government is shunned by the West over its rights record, which has kept previous US presidents from meeting all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a part.

Clinton said of next year’s planned election: “I will underscore our scepticism about an election that does not include all of the people or their representatives who are in opposition."

There were no plans, she said, to drop US economic sanctions on Myanmar.

“We have made it very clear we are not lifting sanctions on Burma but we are trying to encourage Burma to conduct the kind of internal dialogue with all the stakeholders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, that could lead to there being fair, free and credible elections next year."