YANGON, Myanmar, AP
A European Union mission on Monday began trying to break a decade-long deadlock between the ruling military and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi following the first direct talks between the two sides in six years.
The four day visit will allow the EU to hear from Suu Kyi — who has been under virtual house arrest for four months — about secret discussions that began in October, signaling an apparent thaw in relations.
Asian and Western governments have welcomed the talks but many observers remain skeptical that a major breakthrough is in the offing. The military has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since 1962.
The EU troika, which includes representatives from Sweden, France and Belgium, arrived in Yangon late Sunday and met Monday with Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win, a ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.
The EU team was due to meet later Monday with Foreign Minister Win Aung and Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the third-ranking figure in the military regime, before seeing Suu Kyi on Tuesday.
The delegation, headed by Borje Ljunggren, director of the Asia and Oceania Division of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, will also meet with representatives of foreign nongovernment aid groups working in Myanmar. An EU troika last visited 18 months ago.
“The visit will be the continuation of the EU visit in July 1999 and partly a fact-finding visit in relation to the current developments in Myanmar,” Khin Maung Win told reporters before the delegation’s arrival.
The regime has recently eased up on its browbeaten opposition. Last week the military released 84 members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy from detention and also sent home NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo, who had been held at a military camp since Sept. 22, when he, Suu Kyi and other NLD members were prevented from leaving Yangon.
The military brutally crushed a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 and two years later refused to recognize the outcome of a general election which the NLD won by a landslide.