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Suu Kyi meets Shwe Mann, international ambassadors

Aung San Suu Kyi met with speaker of parliament Shwe Mann for the second time in a week on Thursday to discuss reconciliation of the disparate political forces in the country in the wake of her historic election victory earlier this month.

As chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD), winners of last week’s general election in Burma, Suu Kyi also met ambassadors from countries including Russia, Germany, the UK and Spain in one of the parliament buildings on Thursday, a day after receiving the Chinese ambassador.

Suu Kyi has made conciliatory overtures to Burma’s president, the powerful military, and to the party of former generals that has run the country since the junta handed over power to a semi-civilian government in 2011.


Even though President Thein Sein and armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing have congratulated Suu Kyi on her victory, suspicion lingers among the electorate in Burma which saw Suu Kyi’s landslide election win in 1990 ignored by the junta.

No date yet has been fixed for the meeting between the president and the Nobel laureate.

Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann, who wields strong influence over lawmakers in the outgoing parliament, agreed on Thursday to “bring about peace of mind for the population” by cooperating and negotiating through the transition to the next parliament.

In a joint statement issued by Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann, the pair also agreed to prioritise the agenda of national settlement and, importantly, ethnic unity, and to establish a tradition of “mutual respect”.

Shwe Mann leads a powerful faction of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and his cooperation in the coming weeks could be vital during the protracted transition before Suu Kyi’s NLD takes office, probably in late March.

The house speaker and ousted USDP chairman lost his Lower House seat in Phyu, Pegu Division, and will be required to vacate the speaker position when the next parliament convenes.

The USDP lost most of its seats in the election, but the defeated members of the outgoing parliament will sit until January.

Ahead of the election, Shwe Mann had won a reputation as one of the more reform-leaning former generals in the USDP. His warming ties with Suu Kyi were viewed with suspicion by the president and contributed to his removal as party leader.

How the NLD’s relationship with the military develops is one of the biggest political uncertainties for the transition.

The armed forces will constitute the largest opposition block to the NLD in parliament with the unelected 25 percent of house seats it is guaranteed under a constitution the junta drafted before handing over power in 2011.

That charter guarantees the military a veto over constitutional change and three important ministerial portfolios.

One of the biggest sources of tension between Suu Kyi and the military is a clause in the constitution that bans her from becoming president. The NLD wants the armed forces to relinquish its role in politics, which would allow it to overturn that ban.

After concluding the meeting with Suu Kyi, a procession of ambassadorial vehicles and their police escorts pulled up in front of the parliament building that houses a committee Suu Kyi chairs.

The ambassadors filed into the building for a meeting with Suu Kyi.


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