Singapore: US President Barack Obama pressed on Sunday for Myanmar's military junta to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during a landmark encounter with the regime's Prime Minister, the White House said.
"He brought up the release of Aung San Suu Kyi with that government (Myanmar)," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters, as Obama met Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and nine other Southeast Asian leaders.
Gibbs told reporters that Obama called on Myanmar to free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and end oppression of minorities.
"Obama brought that up directly with that government," Gibbs said, indicating that the President spoke directly to Thein Sein.
For decades, Western governments have avoided direct contacts with leaders of Myanmar because of the regime's poor human rights record and suppression of democracy.
A joint statement to be issued after the summit — their first ever between a US President and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — is expected to devote an entire section on Myanmar, a major irritant in relations between the two sides.
The statement is not expected to contain a US proposal to call for the release of political prisoners, including Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years under detention.
But a direct appeal from Obama carries more weight as he is the most powerful leader to have conveyed the message directly to a top Myanmar official.
First Published: Sunday, November 15, 2009, 23:42