Thursday, November 8, 2007

Junta freezes out UN envoy

Rangoon - United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari was scheduled to meet yet again with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma on Thursday evening but has apparently been denied an audience with the junta's chief Senior General Than Shwe, diplomatic sources said.
Gambari arrived in Burma last Saturday on a mission to hasten the country's national reconciliation process in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown on monk-led protests on September 26-27 that left 10 people dead according to official figures. Others say the death-toll was closer to 200.
The special envoy was briefed Thursday morning by senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party, in Naypyidaw, 350 kilometres north of Rangoon.
Five leaders of the pro-junta National Unity Party (NUP) flew to Naypyidaw Thursday morning to also meet with Gambari who is scheduled to fly to Rangoon in the afternoon for talks with Suu Kyi before departing for Singapore, according to western diplomats and UN sources.

It will be Gambari's fifth meeting with Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since May 2003.
It seems unlikely that Gambari will be granted an audience with Burmese military supremo Than Shwe this trip, diplomatic sources said.
During his six-day stay in Burma, Gambari has met only two senior members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the ruling junta styles itself.
On Tuesday he met with Prime Minister General Thein Sein and the newly appointed SPDC First-Secretary Lieutenant-General Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo.
Gambari delivered a letter from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Thein Sein to pass on to Than Shwe.
The special envoy is scheduled to return to UN headquarters on Monday when he will need to provide a progress report on his Burma mission.
Gambari was sent to Burma on Ban's instructions to seek democratic reform, engage in dialogue with detained political opposition leader Suu Kyi and junta chief Than Shwe, and to seek the release of political prisoners and detained pro-democracy marchers.
At UN headquarters in New York, Ban told reporters Tuesday: "I am concerned at this time about the lack of progress. He has not been able to meet with Senior General Than Shwe."
There is great scepticism in Burma about the junta's desire to open a political dialogue with the opposition. Burma has been under military rule for the past 45 years.
Under General Ne Win, who seized power with a coup in 1962, the country was virtually closed to the outside world for two decades as it pursued its disastrous "Burmese Way to Socialism."
In 1988, after a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations that left an estimated 3,000 dead, the army discarded its socialist ideology but has maintained its wariness about the international community, especially Western democracies.
Efforts by the UN to pressure the regime in the aftermath of yet another crackdown on its own people last September have thus far borne few results, observers said.