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Burmese wary of UN chief’s visit

July 1, 2009 (DVB), Burmese politicians have expressed fear that Ban Ki-moon's visit to Burma will achieve little without concerted attempts to meet National League for Democracy members, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN Secretary General is due to arrive in Burma on Friday on a two-day visit, the exact itinerary of which is unknown.

Senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), as well as a number of human rights groups, have said however that the trip will be meaningless unless a meeting with NLD members, and even Suu Kyi, is secured.

"If [Ban Ki-moon] can spare two days to meet with the junta, he should also consider trying to find a way to meet with the other side," said NLD Central executive Committee member U Win Tin.

"If not, and he leaves Burma having only made friends with the junta, then this trip would be meaningless."

The trip follows a two-day visit last week by UN envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari, which ended on Sunday and was widely believed to have paved the way for Ban's arrival.

The UN chief was initially wary of accepting the invitation to visit Burma over concerns that the government might use the trip for propaganda purposes.

Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), said that the trip may be too brief to achieve the UN's goals of ensuring the release of all of Burma's 2,100 political prisoners.

"Without seeing these people, he would not get an idea of how they are feeling and it might become more difficult for him to solve the problems," he said.

Veteran Burmese journalist Ludu Sein Win said yesterday that the UN "is like a toothless tiger with no executive power".

"Burma is like North Korea. The junta doesn't care about anything apart from their holding of the power," he said.

The trip comes at a sensitive time, with the trial of Suu Kyi now in its seventh week and evidence of strengthening ties between Burma and North Korea, who were last month subject to toughened UN sanctions.

It is unclear whether the latter issue will be raised during the UN chief's visit.

Reporting by Naw Say Paw


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