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UN envoy to witness Myanmar's roapmap to democracy

Ibrahim Gambari is in Myanmar as an emissary of UN Secy-General and his visit comes at a critical time for the military-ruled nation.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 11:35 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Top UN official Ibrahim Gambari was on Friday to meet delegates at divisive constitutional talks in military-run Myanmar, a day before he is due to visit detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The undersecretary general for political affairs will spend the second day of his four-day visit at the National Convention, where analysts say the regime will try and win his support for the so-called road map to democracy.

This is Gambari's second visit to Myanmar, and the Nigerian diplomat became the only foreigner allowed to see Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in more than two years when he visited the isolated Southeast Asian nation in May.

Gambari was due to arrive at 9 am on Friday at the secluded Nyaunghnapin military compound outside Yangon, where the on-again, off-again constitution-drafting talks resumed on October 10.

"He will be meeting with groups participating in the National Convention such as armed ethnic groups, political parties and members of parliament," the United Nations spokesman in Yangon said.

"That is the main reason he is there, to meet all these people in one place," he added.

The National Convention is supposed to be the first of seven steps on a "road map" to democracy, but the talks have been boycotted by Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party and derided by Western countries as a farce, which has dragged for over a decade.

"They will try to get his endorsement for the National Convention, which is the first step on the road map, so they want endorsement for the whole road map," Thailand-based Myanmar analyst Win Min said.

Gambari is in Myanmar as an emissary of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and his visit comes at a critical time for the military-ruled nation.

The UN Security Council discussed the country in September, with the United States pressing for a resolution on its human rights abuses and lack of democratic reform.

Gambari arrived in Yangon at around midday on Thursday and was greeted by Foreign Minister Nyan Win before meeting the labour minister and the planning minister, the United Nations said.

He also met Yangon-based UN staff.

"Building upon the understandings reached during his first visit, Mr Gambari stressed to his interlocutors the need for concrete positive results in key areas," a UN statement released late on Thursday said.

Myanmar needed to make the road map process "more transparent and inclusive", the UN said.

It listed other priorities as the release of political prisoners, the question of humanitarian access, and the situation in the Karen State, where an upsurge in fighting has forced hundreds of refugees to flee to Thailand.

On Saturday, Gambari will fly to Myanmar's new administrative capital, Nay Pyi Taw, some 350 kilometres north of Yangon, to hold talks with junta leader Than Shwe, according to information ministry sources.

Following the meeting with the military leader, the UN envoy would return to Yangon on Saturday afternoon to see Aung San Suu Kyi, the sources said.

The 61-year-old has been under house arrest for most of the past 17 years.

Her National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections in a landslide victory, but the military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, refused to recognize the result.

Gambari will leave Myanmar on Sunday morning.

First Published: Nov 10, 2006 11:35 IST