Yangon : In keeping with a request by United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, Myanmar’s ruling junta has appointed a “minister for relations” between the military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, state media confirmed Tuesday.
The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a government mouthpiece, reported that when Gambari visited Sep 29 to Oct 2, he had recommended that the regime appoint a liaison officer to build relations with Suu Kyi, the country’s democracy icon and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
“In respect of Mr. Gambari’s recommendation and in view of smooth relations with Aung San Suu Kyi, the deputy minister for labour Aung Kyi is assigned duty of minister for relations,” said the newspaper on Tuesday, repeating a brief government announcement that was also made Monday night on state TV.
The announcement coincided with a UN Security Council meeting in New York to decide whether to issue a harsh statement on Myanmar Junta’s latest crackdown on its own people.
Gambari, who was sent to Myanmar in the aftermath of the regime’s bloody suppression of monks and their laymen followers on Sep 25 and 26 in Yangon, met with the junta chief Senior General Than Shwe on Oct 2 in Naypyidaw, the country’s new capital.
At that meeting Than Shwe said he was willing to personally meet Suu Kyi on the preconditions that she end her calls for confrontation with the regime and support for economic sanctions on the country imposed in the aftermath of their previous slaughter of their own people in 1988, when an estimated 3,000 died in an army crackdown.
In last month’s crackdown the government claims that only 10 people died, and of the estimated 2,700 people arrested over the past ten days, including 533 monks, about 1,600 have already been released, including some 400 monks.
Anti-junta activists and private observers in Yangon estimate the death toll was much higher.
Myanmar’s military clique has ruled the country since 1962. The regime outraged world opinion when it held a general election in 1990, which was won with a landslide by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and then proceeded to ignore the outcome.
Past efforts to initiate a dialogue with Suu Kyi have failed to take off, primarily because the junta has no real intention to give up its now absolute power, observers said.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, independence hero and founder of the Myanmar army, has been under house arrest in Yangon since May 2003. She has spent about 12 of the past 18 years confined to her family home in the former capital.