Monday, February 2, 2009

Burma stonewalls Suu Kyi visit

Rangoon (Bangkok Post)- The UN's top envoy to Burma on Sunday met the minister tasked with liaising with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi - but not the democracy leader herself.

Ibrahim Gambari's last trip to the military-ruled nation in August 2008 ended in deadlock, with Aung San Suu Kyi refusing to meet the Nigerian diplomat and her party dismissing the visit as "a waste of time."

On this four-day trip which began Saturday, the United Nations has said Gambari wants "meaningful discussions with all concerned on all the points raised during his last visit."

But Gambari is not expected to be granted a meeting with the reclusive head of state Senior General Than Shwe, and it is not yet clear whether Aung San Suu Kyi will consent to meet with the UN negotiator.

On Sunday morning, Gambari met officials including Information Minister Kyaw Hsan and Foreign Minister Nyan Win in the commercial hub Rangoon.

"He also met with relations minister Aung Kyi," said a government official who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. He refused to reveal what was discussed.
AFPAung Kyi is the minister tasked with liaising with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung Kyi's appointment to coordinate junta contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2007 was seen as a major sop to the West after the violent suppression of anti-junta demonstrations in September that year.

But their last meeting was in January 2008, and Aung San Suu Kyi said soon after she was "not satisfied" with the way the dialogue was progressing.

Instead, the junta has forged ahead with its own "Roadmap to Democracy" which its says will lead to multi-party elections in 2010 but which dissidents deride as a sham as it does not include Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari later Sunday met with representatives of a commission which organised a referendum on Burma's new constitution in May last year.

The regime says the constitution passed with nearly 93 percent approval in a vote held days after the deadly Cyclone Nargis, although critics say the poll was not free and fair and the new charter simply enshrines junta rule.

Gambari also met with the International Committee of the Red Cross and foreign diplomats, Burmese officials said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained by the junta for most of the last 19 years, and surprised observers in August by refusing to meet Gambari, a move interpreted as a snub after he had failed to secure any political reform.

Burmese officials have said Gambari will likely meet with the Nobel peace prize winner on Monday, echoing the expectations of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. (AFP)

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