Image: Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi
Sukree Sukplang  /  Reuters
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, pictured in May 2002, may be freed from house arrest and her National League for Democracy invited to a constitutional conference next month.
updated 4/3/2004 3:14:41 PM ET 2004-04-03T20:14:41

Myanmar’s military government will invite Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party to join a constitutional convention beginning May 17, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday.

In what appeared to have been a misunderstanding among people speaking English as their only shared language, Foreign Minister Win Aung was believed to have said Suu Kyi would be freed from house arrest in conjunction with the opening of the convention. Later, however, he was unclear about the assertion.

“I am not in a position to inform you right now about it,” he said during a six-hour stop in Bangkok meet his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai.

“The problem of Aung San Suu Kyi will be taken care of,” he added. “We don’t have any hate, any animosity ... against Suu Kyi.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner may be freed
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been detained and released several times since the junta seized power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement.

Speaking to Japan’s NHK and Thailand’s ITV television networks after arriving at Bangkok’s airport, Win Aung said Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, or NLD, would be invited to attend the constitution-drafting National Convention, which the junta has said will begin May 17.

A reporter asked him: “Will Suu Kyi be released before May 17?” He replied: “Yes, May 17.”

Asked again to give an exact date for Suu Kyi’s release, he said, “It is too early to say.”

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow later said “it might have been a misunderstanding. But Win Aung said (in his talks with Surakiart) he did not give a date.”

“It is too early to give any specific date, but we believe the developments are moving in the right direction,” Sihasak added.

'Roadmap' to establish democracy
The NLD’s participation is considered crucial for the convention’s success, but it has not indicated whether it will attend if invited. The National Convention is the first step in a “roadmap” the junta has announced it will follow to establish democracy in the country.

Suu Kyi has been held in detention and subsequent house arrest since May 2003, when a pro-junta mob clashed with her supporters in northern Myanmar.

Her arrest provoked widespread international criticism, and even Myanmar’s sympathetic Southeast Asian neighbors called for speedy democratic reforms.

Suu Kyi was held incommunicado for several months before being moved to house arrest in Yangon. During her years in detention, Suu Kyi has continued to criticize the dictators and condemned human rights abuses by the government.

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