RANGOON — Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut on Thursday played down the significance of a recent meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and former junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, stressing the latter had no influence over government policy.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday, Ye Htut, who is also Burma’s information minister, said last Friday’s meeting between the National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman and the ex-senior general would “not have any influence on the power transition.”
“Let me tell you frankly, Snr-Gen Than Shwe is now retired. We have some respect for him as he used to lead us. But he doesn’t have the right to reverse the policies we are taking. If he [tried to], we would not accept it,” Ye Htut said.
Suu Kyi met with Than Shwe in Naypyidaw last week, just two days after the NLD leader held separate meetings with army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and President Thein Sein.
While few details have emerged, Suu Kyi told Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service on Wednesday that the dialogue was significant for the country, without elaborating.
According to a Facebook post by Than Shwe’s grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung, whom Suu Kyi also met following her party’s resounding victory at the polls on Nov. 8, the ex-dictator called Suu Kyi “the future leader” and said he would support her “as best he can.”
Than Shwe ruled Burma from 1992 to 2011 when he handed over power to the current quasi-civilian government that is predominately comprised of former generals. Despite his low public profile since, many believe the 82-year-old still wields influence—speculation that gathered steam after his surprise confab on Dec. 4 with the Nobel Laureate who spent more than a decade under house arrest while Than Shwe was in power.
Win Htein, an NLD central committee member, told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that Suu Kyi met the former strongman with the hope of easing the process of national reconciliation, establishing a democratic, federal union and amending the military-drafted Constitution.
Ye Htut said on Thursday that the president’s dialogue with the NLD leader was not undertaken at Than Shwe’s request.