Junta remains defiant as Gambari's visit ends

Mar 10, 2008 (DVB), United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari left Burma today after a visit in which UN calls for the release of political prisoners and election monitoring were roundly rejected by government officials.

During his five-day visit, Gambari attended meetings with senior government officials, opposition figures and representatives of foreign governments and international organisations.

In a meeting with the special envoy on Friday, information minister brigadier-general Kyaw Hsan responded to points raised in a letter by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Kyaw Hsan claimed that it was unnecessary to have a staff member from Gambari's office based in Burma, as proposed by the secretary-general, and rejected the idea of a more flexible programme for the special envoy during his visits.

In response to concerns about the inclusiveness of the constitution drafting process, Kyaw Hsan claimed that there had been extensive consultations prior to the draft being approved and that it would not be amended again.

He also reiterated the regime's calls for detained National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to "declare the giving up of her policies of confrontation, utter devastation, and demanding four kinds of sanctions" as a precondition for dialogue.

Kyaw Hsan went on to claim that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners would not be released because they were not in fact political prisoners but lawfully detained people who had violated Burmese law.

The final point raised by the secretary-general on the establishment of a National Economic Forum to address economic and social issues was also rejected by the information minister.

"We appreciate your wish to give assistance," Kyaw Hsan said.

"But, the main cause for encountering obstacles and hardships in our development endeavours is various sanctions imposed against our country."

Gambari met members of the Referendum Convening Commission and Constitution Drafting Committee on the same day.

During this meeting, referendum commission member U Thaung Nyunt rejected Gambari's suggestion of inviting international observers to monitor the upcoming referendum, stating that "holding the referendum for the constitution is within the State sovereignty".

Gambari also met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on two occasions during his visit.

National League for Democracy spokesperson U Nyan Win said Gambari's second meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi suggested that there was some discussion between the NLD leader and the junta.

"We heard that Mr Gambari met with Daw Suu on Saturday and then with the other side on Sunday. We have been informed there were similar meetings today [Monday] as well," Nyan Win said.

"We don't know what Mr Gambari and Daw Suu talked about, but since he has been meeting with both parties, it seems there is something to discuss between the two sides."

Nyan Win also called for Daw Suu to be given the opportunity to meet other NLD leaders.

"The government should allow Daw Suu to meet with the other leaders of the NLD as well," he said.

"As the main leader of the NLD, it would be more significant if she was given a chance to meet people in her party."

Gambari will report to the secretary-general on the outcome of his mission.

Reporting by Maung Too and Si√¢n Thomas

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