Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gambari Meets NLD Executive Members, Including Suu Kyi

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, and executive members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) at a government guest house today.

It was the first time that Suu Kyi, who habeen under arrest for 13 of the past 19 years, was permitted to meet with members of her party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) during a visit by the UN envoy.

Aung San Suu Kyi met UN Special Envoy and her party members in Rangoon. Suu Kyi and Gambari discussed the issue of political prisoners as well as demand for the release of all political prisoners. (Photo: AFP)
The meeting took place on Monday morning after Suu Kyi was taken from her lakeside home on University Avenue to meet with Gambari and the NLD members, including party chairman Aung Shwe and senior members Nyunt Wai, Than Htun, Hla Pe and Soe Myint.

Details of the meeting were not available, but NLD spokesman Nyan Win said: “The landscape of his [Gambari’s] current trip has changed. It is the first time that the NLD CEC has held talks together with Gambari and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”

However, he cautioned that it was still too early to say if the visit would yield any positive results. It is believed that Gambari and the NLD executives discussed the arrest and detention of opposition members and activists, as well as NLD demands for the release of all political prisoners.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, said Nyan Win. During the meeting, the opposition leaders told the UN envoy that his efforts to broker reconciliation talks would yield tangible result only if all political prisoners are released.

According to reports, Suu Kyi told Gambari that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should visit Burma only if she and other political prisoners are released.

Ahead of Gambari’s visit, rumors that the ruling regime would release Suu Kyi later this year intensified. Such a move has long been expected, as the junta has often used prisoner releases as a means of deflecting international criticism and to win support for its political agenda. (JEG's: and to attract voters to junta's purpose)

Gambari, who arrived in Rangoon on Saturday, is scheduled to fly to Naypyidaw on Tuesday, said Nyan Win. It was unclear if he would be able to meet the regime’s paramount leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

Some political analysts said that it was unlikely he would meet the senior leader during his four-day trip, but in a statement, the UN said that Gambari hoped to have “meaningful discussions with all concerned.”

Burma’s top leaders usually shun the UN special envoy. During his last visit to the country in August, Gambari also failed to meet with Suu Kyi. It is not known why she snubbed the UN envoy, but the move was widely interpreted as an expression of frustration with the lack of progress in UN-brokered talks.

On Sunday, Gambari met with Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan and other members of the regime’s “Spokes Authoritative Team” in Rangoon.

The UN envoy also held talks with other senior officials, including Aung Kyi, the junta’s liaison with the NLD, Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Culture Minister Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Health Minister Kyaw Myint and Thaung Nyunt, a member of the commission for holding the nationwide constitutional referendum, as well as foreign diplomats.

Aung Naing Oo, a political analyst living in Thailand, said little political progress could be expected from Monday’s talks, but they would give Suu Kyi’s supporters a chance to hear her opinions, the news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

“It’s good that they have met. At least the UN knows what she’s thinking about, or what the NLD has been thinking about, because it has been a big question mark for the past year,” he added.

This is Gambari’s seventh visit to Burma since he was appointed special envoy in 2006.
Analysts believe that during the trip, he will also sound out the opinions of regime leaders regarding a possible visit by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who last visited Burma in May 2008 after a deadly cyclone slammed the country’s delta region.

During his visit, he met with Than Shwe. However, the trip was heavily criticized as Ban did not raise the issue of political prisoners or national reconciliation.

Gambari will reportedly also meet with members of the pro-junta National Unity Party and the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, a group consisting of winners of the last election in 1990, which was won overwhelmingly by the NLD.

Meanwhile, the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), based in Burma, submitted a letter to Gambari suggesting that he broker talks between the regime, the political opposition led by Suu Kyi and leaders of ethnic minorities.

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