US Senator John McCain pledged to support efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar in talks on Thursday with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a visit to assess the new political landscape. The senior Republican’s visit comes as President Barack Obama, who beat McCain in the 2008 White House race, pursues greater engagement with the nation, whose junta recently handed power to a nominally civilian government.
“Mr McCain said they (the US) will always help and support Myanmar democracy. We are also satisfied with the meeting with him,” Suu Kyi told reporters after the pair met for about one hour at her lakeside mansion. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November shortly after the junta held the first election in 20 years. The vote, which was won by the military’s political proxies, was marred by widespread complaints of cheating and intimidation. The US senator has described Suu Kyi as “my inspiration” and wrote in the guestbook at her party’s headquarters: “Thank you for unwavering support for ‘the Lady’,” as she is widely known in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
On Wednesday McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, met with Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in the capital Naypyidaw, according to state media. They “exchanged views on promotion of bilateral ties and cooperation between the two countries,” the New Light of Myanmar reported. He also met on Thursday with senior figures of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, as well as a small group of recently released political prisoners and people infected with HIV.