Pro-Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Leaves Home Detention to Meet Myanmar Junta Official

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi — under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years — left her home Thursday afternoon to meet with a Myanmar government official, a diplomat said.

Three cars arrived at her home and drove her to a government guest house, where she was to hold talks with a newly appointed liaison minister, Aung Kyi. The information came from a diplomat who did not want to be identified for political reasons.

A retired general, Aung Kyi was appointed to the post on Oct. 8 to hold talks with Suu Kyi.

It is not clear if this is Suu Kyi's first meeting with Aung Kyi, who on Wednesday was elevated to labor minister from deputy labor minister.

With Aung Kyi's appointment, the junta said it hoped to achieve "smooth relations" with Suu Kyi. Early this month the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the junta, printed a brief official announcement on its front page saying that Kyi had been appointed "minister for relations" to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi, the country's democracy icon.

The appointment was suggested by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his visit to Myanmar earlier this month, the statement said. It added that the junta had accepted the idea "in respect of Gambari's recommendation and in view of smooth relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

His exact duties have not been detailed, but it appeared Aung Kyi would coordinate all of Suu Kyi's contacts with both the regime and the United Nations, which is seeking to end the political deadlock between democracy advocates and a military that has ruled since 1962.

Aung Kyi has a reputation among foreign diplomats, U.N. officials and aid groups as being relatively accessible and reasonable compared to top junta leaders, who are highly suspicious of outsiders. He has had the delicate task of dealing with the International Labor Organization, which accuses the junta of using forced labor.