Aung San Suu Kyi (photo, from smh.com), the country’s detained opposition leader, could be freed within six months, has hinted Myanmar’s military government.
It is Nyan Win, Myanmar’s foreign minister, that made the suggestion, which came as members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) issued a strong rebuke, expressing their “deep disappointment” at Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued house arrest.
In Singapore, a four-day annual security summit opened, and the joint statement also urged Myanmar’s rulers to engage in a “meaningful dialogue with all political groups and work toward a peaceful transition to democracy in the near future”.
It is rare for the 10-nation Asean group, which includes Myanmar, also known as Burma, to take such a strong stance on a member state’s internal affairs.
George Yeo, Singapore’s foreign minister, said that during a pre-summit dinner on Sunday, Nyan Win told him that under Myanmar law, a political detainee can be held for a maximum period of only six years.
In relation to Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention, that timescale would expire within six months, he said.
“He told me that the six-year limit will come up in about half a year’s time”, Mr Yeo told reporters on Sunday.
When he was asked whether that meant she could be freed, he answered : “I am just repeating to you what he told me and I think that is not an inaccurate inference.”
Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest has been extended in May, by Myanmar’s ruling military for another 12 months.
How that decision is affected by the foreign minister’s suggestion that she could be freed is not clear.
For most of the past 18 years, Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest or in Yangon’s notorious Insein jail.
A landslide victory has been won in the national elections held in 1990, by her party, the National League for Democracy, but it was never allowed to take office.
A report is due to be released by Asean leaders, during the Singapore summit, concerning the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which in early May, swept through Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta, leaving more than 80,000 dead.
Over their response to the storm, and for blocking access to international relief groups in the crucial early days of the disaster, Myanmar’s generals were widely criticised.