A senior figure in Myanmar's military junta has suggested that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be freed from house arrest in about six months, Singapore's Foreign Minister said.
Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win made the hint at a dinner on Sunday attended by all the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who begin their weeklong meeting in Singapore on Monday.
ASEAN later expressed "deep disappointment" at the junta's decision in May to extend Suu Kyi's detention by another year - an unprecedented criticism of Myanmar by the region's main bloc. ASEAN members usually adhere to a policy of not interfering in each other's domestic affairs.
Nyan Win's comments are the most optimistic by the junta on Suu Kyi's future, and the closest Myanmar's military rulers have come to a definite timetable for her release, as demanded by the international community.
According to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo, Nyan Win said under Myanmar law a political detainee can be held for a maximum of six years.
"And he told us that the six-year limit will come up in about half a year's time," Yeo said.
Asked if this means Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, could be released in six months, Yeo said: "That is not an inaccurate inference."
Although Myanmar's state-controlled media have said that the government has the right to hold Suu Kyi for six years, it is the first time that such a senior figure has suggested the possibility of her release in an international forum.