Dinner with Suu Kyi
December 1st, 2011
04:20 PM ET

Dinner with Suu Kyi

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty reporting from Yangon, Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi, icon of Myanmar's democracy movement, was looking for some advice from Hillary Clinton:  Did the former first lady, former politician, and current secretary of state have any pointers on getting back into the public fray?

After nearly two decades in detention under Myanmar's military regime, Suu Kyi has registered her political party and intends to run in upcoming elections.  She met Thursday night with Clinton at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission in Yangon for a quiet dinner before a more in-depth meeting scheduled for Friday at her own home, where she was held prisoner.

Clinton and Suu Kyi "fell into conversation very easily, very naturally," said a senior State Department official who described the evening to reporters traveling with Clinton. It was "as if they knew each other a long time."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner told Clinton that she has read the books the secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have written. In an ironic twist, she added that one of the few things she missed about being under house arrest is that she had a lot more time to read. Now, when she reads she's delving into books about military personalities."She thinks it's important to understand the military mentality," the official said.  Suu Kyi is particularly interested in the lives of historical military figures who have gone into politics, including Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States and Otto von Bismarck of Germany.

The dinner, on a balmy Yangon evening, featured a selection of Burmese delicacies, including curry dishes and a number of fish and chicken specialties prepared by a chef who has been working at the residence for many years.  The conversation turned to meetings the secretary had earlier in the day in the capital, Naypyidaw, with Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, who is steering the nascent reform movement, and with other government officials.

Clinton asked Suu Kyi about her own discussions with the country's leaders and about her intentions to run for election, the senior official said.

The secretary publicly points to "first steps" in reform, things like freeing political prisoners, commitments to end military ties with North Korea, new approaches to ending ethnic violence, and general steps to improve civic life.

Clinton's view, the senior official said, is "let's see what transpires on the ground." Suu Kyi believes the government now is taking some genuine steps toward reform and that more steps could be possible, but she also thinks there are some actions that might be premature for the United States to take in return.

The full conversation took place behind closed doors, but reporters and photographers who were clustered at the entrance to the residence were able to overhear the two women, who previously had spoken only by phone.

Suu Kyi greeted Clinton with a simple phrase: "I am very happy to meet you."

Clinton responded: "I am very happy to meet you, finally."

Finally, after 20 years of detention, after years under military rule that might, just might, be changing.

And if it is, these two women will be at the heart of it.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Hup

    hi guys, I am so eager to see Daw Suu the President of Myanmar and Mrs Clinton of United State President. I am sure these two ladies would make the world a safer place , a better place and a healthier world for all us.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am | Reply
  2. michaelfury


    December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am | Reply
  3. Globalist_freaking_suck

    Hilliarys biggest question was "Just how many jobs need to be shipped here for us to have good relations?" "We have to take care of GE you know?"

    December 2, 2011 at 9:11 am | Reply
  4. Donald in CA

    Suu Kyi is a real classy lady who is a hero to many in the world. Michelle bachman and other right wing women in america should take note what real class is.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:47 am | Reply
    • Globalist_freaking_suck

      Ok everybody can you say BLAAA B LAAA BLAAA

      December 2, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply
  5. Abe

    We play nice to gain like minded allies in turn to strengthen our country even as it collapses around us. Gather enough sticks and you may still build a house. Or a shield... Or jump points for our military, the only thing left in America that is worth anything. Uncle Sam has his hands up too many rears trying to play pupeteer in the world theater.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:51 am | Reply
  6. Jehsea

    @Steve, Ralph Moon and SC among others, what refreshing comments! To hear two fine, well-educated, forward-thinking, democratic female public servants who have "walked the talk," at great personal expense fir the greater good praised – particularly by men – in a public forum, delights me. What a simple, yet rich reward for all the minute conquests that all of us well-educated, multi-tasking mothers and wives and workers accomplish each day. It lifts my spirits!

    December 2, 2011 at 3:40 am | Reply
  7. Rosiepigs

    Another poorly-reported article by CNN. The first mistake is the article's lead-in on CNN's homepage: "What Suu Kyi misses about detention." Really? One of the world's greatest and most ill-treated advocates for democracy and you give her a lead-in of what she misses from being under house arrest by a tyrannical military for 20 years? That's what's important about her meeting with Secretary Clinton?

    Furthermore, in the article itself glosses over the Burmese junta's decades of human rights abuses, including the fact they imprisoned Suu Kyi in her home after her party won free elections in 1990. Plus, the author describes Thein Sein, the country's president, as "steering the nascent reform movement." Their has been peaceful domestic opposition to the Burmese junta for years, "the nascent reform movement" is just an attempt by the ruling generals to appease outside critics and secure foreign investment. Considering Suu Kyi was barred from running in the last election and a certain number of seats in parliament are reserved for the military, all these actions are just for show.

    Is CNN trying to appease the generals, or is it just guilty of shoddy reporting? Given its past performance, the latter seems to be true.

    December 2, 2011 at 3:28 am | Reply

  8. The Chinese government loathes Suu Kyi because she represents democracy. I'm not American but I say good for the USA in this matter.

    December 2, 2011 at 3:16 am | Reply
  9. Eugene

    It's an insult to Suu Kyi to even put Hillary Clinton in the same class as her. There's nothing remarkable about Hillary Clinton. She's only ever thought of only herself and her own political career. Compared to Hillary, Pete Rose is a living saint.

    December 2, 2011 at 3:11 am | Reply
    • Howard in Allexandria, VA

      Oooh! Someone's biases are showing. If you have this power to look into the minds of others and know what their motives are, then you're truly wasting your life posting in CNN news threads.

      December 2, 2011 at 3:43 am | Reply
      • eugene

        actions speak louder than words. Whitewater, the multiple scandals of her husband and she didn't ditch him because it would hurt her political career.

        December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  10. James

    Secretary Clinton has not touched that soup. Don't let your soup get cold Mrs.Secretary.

    December 2, 2011 at 1:48 am | Reply
  11. Frank

    Suu Kyi is more or less a US agent. Surely she is happy to meet her master!

    December 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
    • SC

      Frank, you don't know much about her personal life and the country itself. I was born and raised in that country. Given the conditions that the people of Burma have been living in, you won't be able to stay there for a day before you cry like a kid in a candy store. You just insulted a dignified and well respected woman with your foolish comment.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:28 am | Reply
      • Lizzie

        From the picture she is not missing anything.

        December 2, 2011 at 10:40 am |

    • If you wrote that in an academic paper I guarantee you would lose marks.

      December 2, 2011 at 3:17 am | Reply
  12. Male Admirer

    Finally, these two remarkable women met. Good for both of them.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Reply
    • Pointless1

      Ok, I'll bite... what is so remarkable about them?

      December 2, 2011 at 12:04 am | Reply
      • Pointless1

        I believe I have the answer. They are well educated, international well known figures, and lifelong public servants.

        December 2, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  13. Ralph Moon

    The picture that is pegged with this storey - is wonderful - tells the whole story - thank goodness that it is Hillary Clinton there - good for her and all involved.

    I am a Canadian and very, very pleased to see that the Obama administration is doing what is best for Peace & Democracy in the World - and not a bullet fired - in this case - excellent new American way of doing business.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  14. Steve

    Maybe we should let the girls rule the world for a century. Guys have really screwed it up. Wars, rumors of wars, recessions, diseases, aids (it was a man's disease) and so on. Girls are more civilized.

    December 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Reply
    • John

      You think those two ladies were sitting together for peace?

      December 2, 2011 at 2:42 am | Reply
    • Mike

      I doudt they do any better it not like women arn't involed in goverment as this article shows

      December 2, 2011 at 6:12 am | Reply
    • crazypete

      Like Queen Victoria? Or Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Margret Thatcher, and Catherine II of Russia?

      December 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  15. dome

    usa is a bankrupt country with some firepower left . it still go around giving aids and trying to convert everycountry into another philippines .

    December 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
    • DEEJ

      dope, can you come up with a more idiotic statement? Get your head out of what you sit on.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply
      • DEEJ

        Opps sorry. I guess I shouldn't post if I don't have anything of substance to contribute.

        December 2, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Mike

      U sound like somone from another country that is jealous of the US. Is that the fact of the matter?

      December 2, 2011 at 6:17 am | Reply

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