By WAI MOE
Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told US Senator Jim Webb on Saturday that “interaction” must first be established inside the country, according to her lawyer.
The comment was made in response to Webb’s assertion that, with regard to sanctions, Burma “needs interaction with the international community,” the lawyer said.
“Daw Suu told me that when she met with Senator Webb on Saturday she reiterated the need for the Burmese regime to first interact ‘inside the country.’ She said only when that happens ‘will Burma benefit from relations with the international community,’” said Nyan Win, Suu Kyi’s lawyer, who met her for about one hour on Monday afternoon.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Nyan Win said he asked Suu Kyi about the recent reports in several British newspapers that she had agreed to an overturn of the international tourism boycott on Burma. “She replied that she had not discussed the issue with anyone recently,” Nyan Win said.
According to the lawyer, who is also a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, Suu Kyi’s stance on sanctions has not changed since she issued a statement in 2007.
“Suu Kyi said that as she was not the one who imposed sanctions against the Burmese regime, she is not in a position to lift those sanctions,” he said.
The NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate has in the past, however, offered an olive branch to the ruling generals. In November 2007, following the crackdown on monk-led demonstrations, she said, “In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success …”
Suu Kyi said she explained to Webb that despite some early agreements with Maj-Gen Aung Kyi, the minister of relations, who was appointed by the government to liaise with her after the monk-led protests, nothing ultimately transpired from the meetings.
Nyan Win said that one of topics raised during Suu Kyi’s conversation with Webb was China’s influence within the Burmese regime. The US senator apparently referred to Beijing’s involvement in Burma as a “fearful influence.”
“However, Daw Suu told Webb that she rejects such terminology with regard to China, and she wants Burma to be on good terms with all its neighboring countries as well as the international community at large,” Nyan Win said. “She said China is Burma’s neighbor and wants to be a good friend of Burma. She said she did not see China as a fearful influence.”
Another issue raised by Webb on Saturday was about the participation of her party, the NLD, in the coming elections in 2010. She told Webb that she needed to discuss the matter with members of her party thoroughly, her lawyer said.
Suu Kyi met with the Democratic senator in Rangoon on Saturday. On Monday, Webb told reporters at a press conference in Bangkok that Suu Kyi favors the removal of some of the international sanctions applied by the US and EU.
“I don't want to misrepresent her views, but my clear impression is that she is not opposed to the lifting of some sanctions,” Webb said.
Webb is known for his strong criticism of the US administration’s Burma sanctions, arguing that isolating Burma has strengthened China's grip, weakened US influence and done nothing to improve the junta's behavior.
According to Nyan Win, Suu Kyi made no comment on whether she considered the US senator’s trip to Burma to have been beneficial.