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Top Philippines official meets Suu

Top Philippines official meets Suu Kyi

The Hindu, New Delhi (25/ 10/ 97)

By V.Jayanth

SINGAPORE, Oct: 24. A key meeting between a Philippine official and the
Myanmarese Opposition Leader, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, did take place after
all in Yangon, during last week's visit by the Philippines President,
Mr. Fidel Ramos. Only, Mr. Ramos did not meet the Nobel Laureate and
pro-democracy leader, but deputed his Foreign Secretary, Mr. Domingo
Siazon, to meet Ms. Suu Kyi, over lunch, as a begining of a new process. 

Observers were keen on insiting it was no big breakthrough, but a clear
first step in a long drawn process that can begin for genuine national
reconciliation in Myanmar. It took more than a week for the Philippines
to disclose that the meeting went through, despite earlier denials from
both Manila and Yangon. But that was always the case with such sensitive
developments. ASEAN was never for sensational or news-breaking affairs,
but quiet and diplomatic.

For Mr. Ramos, now certainly on his way out when his term expires next
year, this meeting could be a major achievement. It did not matter if he
could not see Ms. Suu Kyi personally, though he wanted to. That he was
able to get his Foreign Secretary at last to meet her when he was still
in Yangon, could be a major victory for him and a great deal of a
compromise for the ruling military junta, which considered such meetings
as out of place.

What made this meeting important was the fact that Mr. Siazon was now
the Chairman of ASEAN's standing committee of Foreign Ministers and, as
such, its special envoy to deal with such major questions. He was also
on the ASEAN panel handling the Cambodian crisis, though not much
progress was being made there. Analysts in Manila argued that a sing
meeting could not tantamount to a breakthrough, but it certainly
demonstrated that there was a mood of change. It was the first time that
Yangon had agreed to such a visiting dignitory meeting Ms. Suu Kyi,
except for many American Senators and Congressmen, who visit Myanmar
more to see her than to meet the Government.