Aung San Suu Kyi

Invite's 'age limit' puts off China visit by Aung San Suu Kyi

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 5:42am

Members of Myanmar's leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy, will make their first official visit to China next week - but leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend because the party said Beijing excluded delegates older than 60.

The age limit, which was not explained, would delay a much anticipated China trip by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was freed from years of house arrest by Myanmar's Beijing-backed military junta in 2010.

"If the Chinese Communist Party invites her, I think she is ready to go there," said Han Thar Myint, an NLD Central Executive Committee member. "In the [May] invitation, it was mentioned that the delegates should be under 60 years of age. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now 67, so she can't go there."

But Gao Mingbo, political section chief of Beijing's embassy in Yangon, said he was "not aware" of the under-60 rule.

I take this visit as a warming-up exercise. As the Chinese saying goes, a channel is made when the water flows

"I take this visit as a warming-up exercise," Gao said. "As the Chinese saying goes, a channel is made when the water flows."

The 12-member delegation will make the first of two planned visits to Myanmar's northern neighbour and largest investor from May 8-18, top NLD officials said. Another delegation is scheduled to visit in June. Three high-ranking members of the NLD confirmed the visits, but did not say what would be discussed.

"We don't know the detailed programme yet," Han Thar Myint said.

The delegation would include executive committee members, lawmakers and representatives of ethnic regions, he said. Phyu Phyu Thin, a member of parliament for a Yangon township and a leading Aids activist, confirmed she would be part of the group.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said he did not know whether Suu Kyi would be part of the June delegation either.

Speculation about an eventual visit to China by Suu Kyi began in late 2011, when she declined to rule one out during interviews with Chinese media. During a trip to South Korea in January, she said she hoped to visit China soon.