Detained Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be discussed when US President Barack Obama meets Southeast Asian leaders this month, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday.
Lee, who will host the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit on November 15, described the inaugural meeting as a “significant step forward” in relations between Washington and ASEAN.
The event marks the first time a US leader will be in one room with counterparts from all 10 ASEAN states. It will follow a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, also in the city-state.
Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein is expected to attend, Lee said.
Washington’s ties with ASEAN had been hobbled by its position on Myanmar, whose military regime has been accused of human rights violations, including the continued detention of Suu Kyi and other dissidents.
But in a recent policy shift, the Obama administration decided to re-engage with Myanmar, while maintaining a critical view on certain issues.
Regarding “Aung San Suu Kyi, I think ASEAN’s view is clear and we’ve always said that we believe she ought to be released,” Lee said at a news conference ahead of the APEC meeting.
“I’m sure this will be discussed in the US-ASEAN summit too and I’m sure both sides will state their views.”
Lee described the ASEAN-US summit as “a good sign because the US… is now moving to engage Myanmar and I think Myanmar is engaging.”
He spoke as two senior US envoys arrived in Myanmar for talks with the ruling junta and Suu Kyi, the highest level visit to the country in 14 years.
“This is all to the good because our view has always been that ostracising Myanmar and cutting it off altogether is not the constructive way forward. It is unlikely to yield any results,” Lee said.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi had her house arrest extended in August for 18 months after she was convicted over an incident in which an American man swam to her home. This effectively sidelines her from elections planned for next year, analysts say.
Apart from Myanmar and Singapore, ASEAN also includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.