UN envoy discusses Ban Ki-moon's Burma trip

June 29, 2009 (DVB), UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari yesterday ended his two-day trip to Burma with state media reporting that talks with senior government officials centered on the pending visit of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

It remains unclear what the exact purpose of the trip was, although the UN's concern over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the issue of the suspect North Korean ship heading towards Burma, will likely have been raised.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper yesterday reported that Gambari met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win on 26 and 27 June and "held discussions about the programme" for the UN chief's visit.

Ban was invited by the country's ruling generals to visit Burma in early July, although he is said to be concerned that his trip will be used for propaganda purposes by the regime.

Human rights groups have echoed Ban's concerns, although the opposition National League for Democracy says that a visit should go ahead prior to the scheduled 2010 elections.

Dr Thaung Htun, National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma’s representative to the UN, said that he accepts Ban’s visit "in principle"."We think Ban Ki Moon's visit could be to study the situation in Burma to see how far the progress [the UN] suggested [to the junta] has reached" regarding release of political prisoners and participatory elections, he said.

Regarding the Karen refugees fleeing to Thailand, however, he said that Ban "should put in more diplomatic effort in dealing with Burma".

Observers believe that the North Korean ship, which is being closely monitored by the US navy, is carrying small arms.

If it does dock in Burma and, as suspected, offload its cargo, then Burma would become party to a breach of new UN sanctions imposed earlier this month on North Korea following its underground nuclear test.

The situation would undoubtedly skew the focus of Ban Ki-moon's visit, which was likely set up to engage the regime over the trial of Suu Kyi, which the UN chief last month said he was "deeply concerned" about.

Reporting by Francis Wade and Htet Aung Kyaw

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