Myanmar must guarantee democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety when she travels around the country for the first time since her release last year, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
Rudd said he had met with the country’s new president, Thein Sein, and made a personal appeal for the release of 2,000 other political prisoners, telling him that doing so would transform international views of the new government.
He spoke to reporters during a stop-over in Singapore on his way home from a visit to Myanmar.
A source from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party has said she plans to travel outside the main city Yangon for the first time since being freed from seven years of house arrest last year, but politics was not on the agenda.
Rudd said the global community would be watching closely how the government would ensure the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s security.
The issue is a major concern because during a previous political trip in 2003, her convoy was attacked in an ambush apparently organised by the military regime at that time.
Myanmar’s official media last Wednesday said the home affairs ministry had written to Suu Kyi to state that her party’s activities had broken the law.
It was the first time since her release that the authorities have explicitly warned her to stay out of politics.
Australia’s top diplomat said he spent “several hours” with Suu Kyi earlier on Saturday, and she told him she responded to the ministry’s letter by suggesting a dialogue and was awaiting a response.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is in very good spirits,” Rudd said. “She is a very determined person. She is a person of enormous will, determination, and I would say, just plain political guts.”
Suu Kyi was freed in November, days after the country held an election that critics said was a charade aimed at hiding military rule behind a civilian facade.
Despite releasing Suu Kyi, Myanmar has been under pressure to free other political prisoners as one demonstration that it was serious about undertaking democratic reforms.
Rudd said he told the Myanmar leader that the “single action” of releasing the detainees “will have a significant, transformative effect on the international community’s attitude to the newly established government.”
“These prisoners remain as prisoners of conscience within Burma, and the international community awaits action… in ensuring that these people obtain freedom,” Rudd said.