Foreign Minister Murray McCully met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi during his historic trip to Myanmar recently.
Mr McCully described the leader of opposition party National League for Democracy as “inspiring”, and her decision to stand for Parliament by-elections on April 1 as “truly courageous”.
In the inaugural visit of a New Zealand foreign minister, or even Prime Minister, Mr McCully was invited to Myanmar by Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin. Mr McCully also met with President Thein Sein and other senior government figures.
His visit was timely - a welcome process of political reform is underway in the Southeast Asian country, which has included the release of many political prisoners. Among them is Suu Kyi who has been under some form of detention for most of the last 20 years.
“The reforms in Myanmar are the most significant in more than 50 years,” Mr McCully said.
“I was pleased to explore how New Zealand can support the continuation of that process.”
Suu Kyi’s party won power in the 1990 elections but was denied the chance to take office. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1991, and has been separated from her British husband (who died in 1999) and children for almost two decades due to her efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar.
“The visit was a valuable opportunity to discuss issues of common interest and encourage further progress towards democracy in their nation of more than 60 million people,” Mr McCully said.
“I look forward to further discussions, after the by-election, with government representatives on opportunities for political and economic cooperation between New Zealand and Myanmar.”