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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                       25  August 2011

Suu Kyi sees hope of “real change”

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Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday she believes the country's army-backed president wants "real positive change" amid warmer relations between the regime and its most famous critic.

Suu Kyi met President Thein Sein on Friday in her highest-level discussions since she was freed from seven years of house arrest soon after a November election that was marred by claims of cheating and the absence of her party.

"From my point of view, I think the president wants to achieve real positive change," she told reporters on Wednesday.

Suu Kyi was warned to keep out of politics in June, but has since engaged in increasing dialogue with the government, which is nominally civilian but remains dominated by former generals.

The Nobel laureate was speaking after a meeting with Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, and said the pair had covered a variety of subjects including the fate of political prisoners.

It was the first meeting between the envoy and the democracy champion, who was locked up during his last visit in February 2010.

"I am really satisfied. I am encouraged to have seen him as he is an expert in this issue," she said of Quintana.

Myanmar allowed the UN envoy into the country for the first time in more than a year amid signs that the government wants to improve its international image.

Quintana described his discussions with Suu Kyi as "very important, fruitful and productive", in brief comments after the meeting.

The UN envoy, who has been an outspoken critic of Myanmar's rulers in the past, is due to hold a press conference on Thursday at the end of a five-day visit that has included a trip to the new parliament in Naypyidaw and talks with senior regime figures.

Earlier on Wednesday, Quintana visited Yangon's notorious Insein prison, which is believed to hold some of Myanmar's around 2,000 political prisoners.

After his trip to the country last year, the envoy angered Myanmar's ruling generals by suggesting that human rights violations in the country may amount to crimes against humanity and could warrant a UN inquiry.

He has since been refused visas to visit several times.

The international community has called for a number of reforms in Myanmar including the release of political prisoners, improved human rights and dialogue with the opposition.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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