Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmese opposition party continues outreach to China

10-member party delegation, led by a close confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi, to make fourth trip this year ahead of presidential vote in 2015

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 3:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 8:23am

Myanmar's biggest opposition party is sending another high-level delegation to China later this month as both sides seek to enhance engagement ahead of the presidential election in 2015.

The 10-member delegation will be led by U Nyan Win, party secretary of the National League for Democracy and a close confidant of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the party's central executive committee member Han Thar Myint.

Analysts see the 11-day trip, the fourth of its kind this year, as another attempt by both sides to improve relations between Beijing and the NLD, which is widely expected to replace the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in 2015.

Han Thar Myint said the aim was to improve party-to-party relations with China's Communist Party and delegates will hold talks with mid-level officials.

The delegation leaves Myanmar on November 17 and will travel to Beijing, Shanghai and Yunnan .

There have also been on-going discussions and preparations for Suu Kyi - who has made public her wish to run in the election should the constitution be revised to allow her candidacy - to visit China before 2015.

But both sides are treading a fine line due to the sensitivity of such a visit.

The Nobel Peace laureate has expressed her wish to visit China, which still holds significant economic and political influence in Myanmar despite recent tensions, but she insists that the invitation should come from the Chinese government.

Suu Kyi has previously declined invitations that have come from semi-official Chinese organisations.

Earlier this week, Myanmese media outlet Mizzima reported that Suu Kyi had accepted an invitation extended by the China Association for International Friendly Contact, a semi-governmental organisation that has military ties, to visit China.

Neither Han Thar Myint nor Tin Mar Aung, the opposition leader's personal assistant, would comment on the report.

No reference of the invitation and Suu Kyi's acceptance has been made in Chinese media.

Sun Yun, a fellow with Stimson's East Asia Programme and an expert on China-Myanmar relations, said Beijing was keen to have Suu Kyi as a guest but would like to avoid being seen as welcoming a democracy icon.

"People might wonder what it means," she said.

The Chinese government would also want to secure Suu Kyi's acceptance before publicly extending the invitation to avoid the possible embarrassment of being snubbed, Sun added.

According to Sun, a special envoy of Suu Kyi was in Beijing last month to discuss the practicalities of her visit.

Given Suu Kyi's capacity as a member of parliament and her international standing, China's National People's Congress would be an ideal channel to extend the invitation, according to several analysts.

There have been more visible efforts by China to reach out to Myanmar's opposition parties and civil society since events indicated the formerly isolated country was seeking to balance its economic and political dependence on the giant neighbour by throwing its door open to the United States and other powers.

Fan Hongwei , an expert on Myanmar at Xiamen University, said Beijing's warming ties with the NLD and outreach to Suu Kyi were part of initiatives to improve relationships with neighbouring countries.