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UN envoy Gambari arrives in Burma

June 26, 2009 (DVB), The UN Special Envoy to Burma arrived in Rangoon this morning for what is widely believed to be a prelude to the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose trip is penciled in for early July.

It is not clear what the exact purpose of Gambari's trip is, although the issue of the suspect North Korean ship heading toward Burma will likely complicate discussions.

If, as is widely believed, the ship will deliver arms to Burma, then Burma will become party to a breach of recent UN sanctions placed on exports of weapons from North Korea.

According to the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) – Liberated Areas, Gambari "might refuse" to bring up the North Korea issue, although it has further weakened Burma's international image.

"I am reluctant to say that [Gambari] will bring very concrete or positive directions because the regime has been very negative recently," said Nyo Ohn Myint.

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi will no doubt top the agenda when Gambari meets with senior government officials. The political sensitivity of a trip that comes midway through the Suu Kyi trial has been exemplified by the wall of silence put up by UN officials in Burma.

A spokesperson at the UN office in Rangoon said today that he was unable to comment on any details of the trip.

"I can't speculate on the North Korea issue and I can't speculate on the trial," he said.

According to Nyo Ohn Myint, however, Gambari is likely to approach the topic with caution.

"Gambari might not say to release her, but just to compromise with her," he said, adding that a meeting with Suu Kyi is likely.

[The government] will probably let Ban Ki-moon or Gambari meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, because with a lot of international concern and pressure, they have to compromise their stance."

Ban Ki-moon has been invited by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to visit Burma in early July.

He has voiced concern however that the visit may be used to give a cosmetic lift to the government in the face of mounting international condemnation, and told the Associated Press earlier this week that he was looking at the "appropriate timing" for the visit.

Reporting by Francis Wade


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