US Senator Meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Burmese Capital

Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Senator John McCain — in Burma to assess prospects for democratic reforms — has promised opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continued U.S. support for efforts to bring democracy to the Southeast Asian nation.

McCain met Thursday with the pro-democracy leader in Rangoon for about an hour. Afterward, in comments to reporters, Aung San Suu Kyi voiced satisfaction with the meeting.

McCain also met with seven former political prisoners and leaders of several small, ethnic political parties. He holds a news conference Friday at the U.S. embassy in Rangoon.

McCain's Rangoon visit follows meetings Wednesday in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, with Vice President Aung Myint Oo, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin and other officials.

Burma's official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said McCain and the foreign minister discussed bilateral relations and mutual interests, but did not elaborate. However the senator said before arriving in Burma that he would urge authorities not to interfere with a coming national tour announced this week by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel laureate, in her comments Thursday, also voiced concern for the health of a group of political prisoners who began a jailhouse hunger strike two weeks ago in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, over demands for improved prison conditions. There are reports that seven of the 22 inmates have since been released, but Aung San Suu Kyi called the overall treatment of such prisoners “a sad affair.”

In advance of his trip, Senator McCain said he would press Burma's nominally civilian government, which was sworn in earlier this year, to move forward with democratic reforms stifled during the two-decade rule of the former military government.

He also visited the biggest refugee camp for Burmese in Thailand, at Mae Sot. Tens of thousands of refugees there are waiting either to return home or to be resettled elsewhere.

McCain is a former U.S. Navy pilot who spent six years in a prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam War. He later became a leading advocate of reconciliation between the former enemies.