Gambari concludes Burma mission

Nov 8, 2007 (DVB), United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has concluded his visit to Burma, and has been authorised to make a statement on behalf of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

After lengthy consultations with senior government officials at Naypyidaw over the past few days, Gambari was able to meet detained National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung Suu Kyi and other NLD party members today.

The details of Gambari's meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have not been released, but a UN statement released today said that the democracy leader had authorised Gambari to make a statement on her behalf at the close of his mission.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win confirmed that three members of the NLD central executive committee had been summoned to the new capital for a meeting with Gambari before he left for Rangoon.

"U Aung Shwe, U Lwin and U Nyunt Wai were invited to fly to Naypyidaw on Thursday to have a meeting with Mr. Gambari. They were to discuss issues concerning on national reconciliation," Nyan Win said.

NLD members have previously expressed their frustration at being excluded from the dialogue process.

Htaung Kho Htan, a parliament representative and member of the Committee representing the People’s Parliament, complained that ethnic opposition groups have also been left out of discussions.

"There are two types of ethnic [politicians]; one that is backed by the government and the other one on Daw Suu’s side," Htaung Kho Htan said.

"We have been hoping since Mr. Gambari’s previous trip that he would meet with us. And we are still hoping he will. It is quite biased as he is only meeting with government-backed ethnic representatives and not those from Daw Suu’s side," he said.

Opportunity for dialogue?

Today's UN statement said that steps had been taken during Gambari's visit towards dialogue between the junta and opposition leaders.

"We now have a process going which would lead to substantive dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a key instrument in promoting national reconciliation in an all-inclusive manner. The sooner such a dialogue can start, the better for Myanmar," the statement said.

However, there have been doubts over the effectiveness of Gambari's latest mission, particularly after the military regime yesterday rejected offers of three-way talks with the UN envoy and opposition leaders.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has also expressed concern about the "lack of progress" made during the trip.

But Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst, thought it was too early to judge the success or failure of the mission based on the junta's initial response to talks.

"We can’t say at this moment that the UN has failed in its task, because it is not unusual for the military to say this kind of thing," Aung Naing Oo said.

"What they just said recently is what the military or general Than Shwe believes. We just have to wait and see how the UN Security Council or the western governments are going to persuade the Burmese junta to come to the table."

The Burmese regime has invited Gambari to return to Burma, and he plans to do so in the next few weeks, according to the UN.

No "return to status quo"

Gambari arrived in Burma on 3 November, and spent the majority of his visit in Naypyidaw consulting with senior government officials, including minister for relations Aung Kyi. Gambari spoke yesterday to the new Burmese prime minister, lieutenant general Thein Sein, reportedly holding "open and detailed discussions" on how to address the political, human rights and humanitarian challenges facing the country.

The special envoy was not able to meet senior general Than Shwe during this visit, but he has given Thein Sein a letter from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to the junta leader.

Gambari emphasised the need for change in Burma in the areas of human rights, national reconciliation and poverty alleviation, according to a UN spokesperson.

"Mr Gambari stressed that a return to the status quo before the crisis would not be sustainable, and suggested specific steps for Myanmar to meet international expectations in this regard," said the spokesperson.

"These include the need for dialogue with the opposition without delay as part of an inclusive national reconciliation process, as well as necessary confidence-building measures in the humanitarian and socioeconomic areas, including the establishment of a broad-based poverty alleviation commission," she said.

Gambari is due to return to the UN headquarters in New York by Monday 12 November.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw and DVB

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