Asia

Former Myanmar military ruler Than Shwe 'supports new leader'

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of National League for Democracy party Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ms Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide victory in November

Myanmar's former military ruler sees erstwhile foe Aung San Suu Kyi as the country's "future leader" and has pledged support for her in a secret meeting, the general's grandson said.

Details of Friday's meeting between the two was revealed by General Than Shwe's grandson, who acted as intermediary.

He said in a Facebook post the meeting had lasted two-and-a-half hours.

Ms Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to a landslide election victory in November.

The election was the first openly contested general election in Myanmar (also known as Burma) in 25 years.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Myanmar says 82-year-old General Than Shwe, who headed the country's military junta until he stepped down in 2011, still wields enormous influence.

His grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung quoted him as having said in the meeting: "It is the truth that she will become the future leader of the country," and "I will support her with all of my efforts".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many consider former military leader General Than Shwe is still very powerful

It's not clear whether General Shwe's comments amount to a commitment to help Ms Suu Kyi change the clause of the constitution that bars her from becoming president because she has foreign children.

The last week has seen talks between all Myanmar's key players.

One topic on the table was the thorny question of who becomes Myanmar's next president.

Mrs Suu Kyi has previously told the BBC she would find a president as required, but "that won't stop me from making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party".

Aung San Suu Kyi - 'The Lady'

Image copyright Reuters
  • 70-year-old daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, Gen Aung San
  • Spent 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010, despite the NLD winning a landslide in elections in 1990 which were later nullified
  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for "her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights"
  • Sidelined in 2010 elections but released from house arrest six days later
  • Won a parliamentary seat in 2012 by-election, as country adopted liberalising reforms

Full profile