Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 5 News List

UN envoy visits Aung San Suu Kyi, no word on release


UN special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail met yesterday with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Yangon residence, the first independent figure to see her since her shift to house arrest last week.

Razali entered the democracy icon's famous lakeside home on University Avenue at around 5:20pm, after spending an hour in separate talks with Myanmar's new prime minister, General Khin Nyunt.

He appeared to have failed to persuade the ruling generals to free her immediately.

"No, nothing," he said when asked by reporters if he had any news to offer after meeting Khin Nyunt.

Suu Kyi was confined to her residence last Friday after being held in custody by the military junta for four months, sparking an international furore.

The 58-year-old opposition leader was taken home after undergoing major gynecological surgery on Sept. 19, marking the beginning of her third stint under house arrest since 1988.

Razali is on a crucial three-day mission to Myanmar aimed at securing Suu Kyi's release and the restart of the national reconciliation process abandoned earlier this year.

UN sources said the veteran Malaysian diplomat had postponed his departure scheduled for today by several hours.

Details of his program were not available, but analysts said they viewed the extension tentatively as a sign that at least some progress was being made during his 11th visit to the country.

Razali acted as the catalyst for landmark national reconciliation talks between Suu Kyi and the junta which began in October 2000 but collapsed following her detention.

He now faces the difficult task of reviving the contacts and advancing a seven-point "roadmap" for democratic reform unveiled by Khin Nyunt in August.

Earlier yesterday Razali asked ethnic political parties to support the reconciliation initiative by working towards the success of the first step in the roadmap -- a national convention to draft a new Constitution under which free and fair elections would be held, an ethnic leader said.

"Please endeavor to make the national convention successful by working together -- the military, the ethnic minorities and the NLD," Shan National League for Democracy chairman Khun Tun Oo quoted Razali as saying.

The roadmap plan was widely dismissed by Yangon analysts as a rehash of previous pledges, but some observers now say they are hopeful Razali may prod them to use it to pursue genuine reforms.

Myanmar's junta is under intense pressure to release Suu Kyi before an ASEAN summit in Bali next month, which risks being overshadowed by the issue.

Singapore called yesterday for Myanmar to lift all restrictions on Suu Kyi and said her plight would be raised at the Bali meeting.

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