Former Myanmar junta strongman pledges support for Suu Kyi

YANGON — In a significant development, the head of the previous military government, former Senior General Than Shwe, pledged to support “future leader” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at a secret meeting last week.

The meeting on December 4 at the former junta strongman’s Nay Pyi Taw residence was revealed by his grandson, Ko Nay Shwe Thway Aung, in a Facebook post late on December 5.

“It is the truth that she will become the future leader of the country,” former Senior General Than Shwe, 82, was quoted as saying at the meeting.

“I will support her earnestly as much as I can if she really works for the development of the country,” he added, the post said.

The meeting is believed to be the first between the pair since 2003 and follows the landslide victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in the November 8 elections.

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The NLD leader was under house arrest for 15 of the 19 years when the former senior general headed the junta from 1992 to 2011.

NLD spokesperson U Win Htein on December 5 described the meeting as “a crucial step forward” for politics in Myanmar, Radio Free Asia reported.

“It will be very helpful in promoting a peaceful transition,” he told the broadcaster.

“Than Shwe is believed to still wield influence in the government and the military to some degree, and this is why Suu Kyi decided to meet with him,” U Win Htein said.

“The NLD has been asking consistently for political dialogue since 1989,” he told RFA.

“Finally, it has happened after 27 years,” he said.

The meeting with former Senior General Than Shwe came two days after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held separate meetings with President U Thein Sein and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had called for the meetings two days after the November 8 election to discuss “national reconciliation”.

Her closed-door meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was their first since he was appointed Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief in 2011.

A brief statement issued by the Tatmadaw after the meeting said both sides had “agreed to follow the people’s wish to collaborate for the country’s stability, rule of law, national unity and development.”

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