Mon, May 22, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Myanmar junta permits UN envoy to see Suu Kyi

STRATEGY? The UN under-secretary general for political affairs was allowed to meet with the democracy activist, who nevertheless is likely to remain under house arrest


Myanmar, under international pressure for reforms, has allowed a top UN envoy to see detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in an effort to block UN Security Council action, analysts said yesterday.

Ibrahim Gambari, UN under-secretary general for political affairs, held talks with the 60-year-old Nobel peace laureate at a military guest house in Yangon on Saturday for about one hour.

The surprise meeting followed Gambari's talks with the Myanmar junta's reclusive leader Senior General Than Shwe at a secret jungle compound outside the central town of Pyinmana early on Saturday.

The junta crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 and two years later rejected the results of national elections won by Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy.

She has spent more than 10 of the last 17 years under house arrest in Yangon and the junta was likely to extend her house arrest later this month. She has also been barred from seeing foreigners for more than two years.

The last foreign visitor to see the opposition leader was Malaysia's Razali Ismail, the UN's special envoy for Myanmar, in March 2004.

Analysts said Myanmar set up the meeting between Suu Kyi and the envoy in an attempt to block UN Security Council action against the junta amid growing international pressure on the regime for democratic reforms.

"They know pressure is coming, particularly from the United States," said Win Min, a Burmese political analyst in Thailand, referring to last week's US Senate resolution calling on Washington to lead UN Security Council action against Myanmar.

"If they don't allow Gambari to see Suu Kyi, they are worried Gambari will take up the Myanmar issue to the UN Security Council. He is the number three person at the UN," Win Min said.

The US put the international spotlight on Myanmar in December when it pushed the Security Council to hold a briefing on the junta's human rights violations and other problems for the first time.

Last week US President George W. Bush renewed economic sanctions on Myanmar for another year, saying the junta posed a threat to US national security and foreign policy.

The US Senate resolution also condemned Myanmar for its latest offensive against ethnic Karen rebels.

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