NLD ex-member Sandar Min claims Aung San Suu Kyi declined a visit from her in March

An expelled National League for Democracy (NLD) party official said in an interview broadcast on Monday that she attempted to meet with imprisoned party leader Aung San Suu Kyi late last month but was turned away.

Former NLD executive committee member Sandar Min told the BBC’s Burmese-language service that she and two others were given permission by Myanmar’s junta to meet with Suu Kyi on March 25. However, when they arrived at the prison in Naypyitaw, Suu Kyi refused to receive them, she said. 

“Aung San Suu Kyi told the chief guard that she wouldn’t meet us,” she said, claiming that Suu Kyi had told the warder to offer the visitors tea, but would not agree to speak with them.

“Therefore, we couldn’t get the answers we wanted,” she added.

Sandar Min also suggested that Suu Kyi’s refusal to meet was one reason that the NLD was dissolved by the regime just days later, and implied that there had been discussion of removing  Suu Kyi from the party leadership.

“Legally speaking, we could remove any member, including the chairperson, from the party if they were imprisoned, but we have no plan to do so,” she said.

The NLD appeared on a list of “automatically cancelled” political parties that the military council released on March 28, after the party failed to re-register by the required deadline ahead of junta-controlled elections planned for 2023.

During the interview, Sandar Min also publicly admitted for the first time that she and other NLD members met with Suu Kyi in prison late last year. At the time, Sandar Min was still a member of the NLD’s central committee. 

Sandar Min said she met with Suu Kyi at the Naypyitaw Detention Center in November of last year in accordance with arrangements made by the military.

She had previously denied the rumours that she and another senior NLD official, had visited Suu Kyi or asked her permission to reopen the party office and re-register the NLD in preparation for the upcoming election. During the BBC interview, however, she admitted that she had in fact met with the ousted leader. 

“Didn’t we meet with her? Yes, we did, and she was in good health and seemed happy. The meeting went smoothly. She wished us good health, wealth and success in our endeavours. It was a meeting just between the four of us,” she said.

She did not reveal the identities of the two people accompanying her at the meeting, or confirm whether anyone present raised the subject of the 2023 elections. 

The NLD expelled Sandar Min along with three other party members on March 3. In a statement explaining the expulsion, NLD officials said she and the other ejected members had misused the NLD’s name and acted against party policies.

Another ejected member, former Yangon Region chief minister Phyo Min Thein, had testified against Suu Kyi in a corruption trial in October 2021. Afterwards, the junta imposed a fine on Phyo Min Thein for alleged fraud in the 2020 general election but no prison sentence, making him one of few former senior NLD officials to avoid imprisonment under the military regime. 

Sandar Min claimed she had denied the earlier rumours about visiting Suu Kyi out of respect for her wishes. 

“She explicitly told us not to let the public know that we met and that’s the only reason we kept it secret,” she said.

Sandar Min also claimed the ousted leader did not comment on the NLD’s re-registration or the upcoming election during last year’s meeting.

“We told her about everything that was going on because she hadn’t heard anything. She paid close attention to what we had to say but didn’t say anything back. She said nothing political at all,” she said.

Sandar Min, 54, first became politically active during the 1988 Uprising and was a political prisoner during the Than Shwe regime.

In a by-election held in 2012, she was voted into parliament as an NLD member representing Zabuthiri Township, Naypyitaw. She was elected again as the member of parliament for a Yangon Region constituency in the 2015 general elections, but did not run for office again in the 2020 general election. 

Sandar Min is married to an army captain and is suspected of having connections with the military council since the 2021 coup. While she and a few other former NLD officials have avoided prison time since the party was ousted from power, hundreds have been jailed, killed, or forced to flee Myanmar.

The military arrested Suu Kyi along with other NLD leaders—including the incumbent president, Win Myint—when it seized power. It subsequently convicted Suu Kyi and Win Myint on charges widely believed to be fabricated, and sentenced Suu Kyi, 77, to a total of more than 30 years in prison. 

Some NLD central executive committee members who fled Myanmar following the coup later formed a Central Working Committee (CWC) in order to continue managing announcements and party procedures from abroad.

The CWC released a statement on March 29 expressing their respect for the political parties that did not register for the upcoming junta-managed election, which pro-democracy activists have condemned as illegitimate.

Related Articles

Back to top button