NAYPYITAW, MYANMAR - National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Myanmar's army chief for the third time since her pro-democracy party swept elections, officials said Wednesday (Feb 17), heightening speculation that the military may hold sway over the selection of the next president.
Ms Suu Kyi, barred from top office by the junta-era constitution, has exactly one month before her party needs to put forward candidates for a president who will take power in April. Multiple rounds of talks have been held in the capital in recent weeks between the key players in the delicate political transition from army rule. But the talks have taken place behind closed doors, with Ms Suu Kyi, the outgoing president and the army chief all coy on the hard details of their discussions.
Myanmar's army confirmed that the Nobel laureate and military leader Min Aung Hlaing "met and held discussions" at army headquarters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday. It released photographs of Ms Suu Kyi smiling in a post on the Facebook page of the office of the army chief.
"They discussed the rule of law and the ongoing process to create a lasting peace in a friendly and open way," the Facebook post said.
Ms Suu Kyi's doctor Tin Myo Win accompanied her - the second time he has sat in on meetings with the army chief. He is rumoured to be among the NLD's leading candidates for the presidency if Ms Suu Kyi can not cut a deal with the army to change the charter. The document excludes her from the role because she married and had children with a foreigner.
No-one from the NLD was available to comment on the meeting. The NLD has stressed the delicacy of the transition to justify its silence on the issue in recent months. Many hope a new NLD government will finally mark the end of the army's grip on the country, spur an economic revival and a new era of political freedom and accountability. But the party nurses painful memories of its 1990 electoral landslide that was simply ignored by the generals, who went on to renew their repressive rule for a further two decades.
Myanmar's outgoing President Thein Sein, who cancelled a high-profile visit to the United States this week to oversee the transition, did not attend the talks on Wednesday.
"We know about their meeting but the president does not have a plan to see her (Suu Kyi) in the coming days," the director of the president's office Zaw Htay said.