Junta bars UN envoy from meeting Suu Kyi

Rangoon (dpa) - UN special envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari, after five days in the country, has failed to see either opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi or any senior junta officers.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in her family's Rangoon home for the past five years, refused to get in a government car to meet Gambari on Wednesday and did not come out to greet the UN special envoy's car Friday morning when it parked in front of her compound for an hour.

Suu Kyi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under house detention for 13 of the last 20 years.

Although eyewitnesses saw Gambari's car as it arrived at 7:30 am (0100 GMT) and waited at the front gate of Suu Kyi house and prison for an hour, it was not clear in the UN special envoy was inside.

There was not an unusual amount of security around Suu Kyi's compound Friday morning.

Gambari later Friday met with the executive committee of Suu Kyi's opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD), to discuss the outcome of his mission.

"We talked about political prisoners and the UN resolution on Burma," said NLD spokesman Nyan Win. "He has not been able to see Suu Kyi," Nyan Win confirmed, without explaining why the Nobel laureate apparently snubbed the special envoy.

Gambari, who arrived Monday, has also failed to meet any senior officers in the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the ruling junta styles itself.

"Suu Kyi may be refusing to see Gambari to make a political point," said Win Min, a lecturer on Burmese affairs at Chiang Mai University in Thailand. "She may feel there is no point seeing him if he hasn't seen any of the top generals and there has been no improvement."

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since May 2003, being kept in near-isolation by the ruling junta, which recently extended her imprisonment, adding another six months to a year to it.

On rare occasions, she has been allowed to leave her house under army escort to meet with visiting UN special envoys, such as Gambari and his predecessors.

Despite the meetings, all UN special envoys to Burma have failed to persuade the ruling junta to release Suu Kyi or include her in deliberations on the future course of the Burmese politcal system.

The NLD won the 1990 general election by a landslide but has been denied power by the country's entrenched military establishment, which has ruled Burma since 1962.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hoping to visit Burma in the last week of December if conditions are appropriate to discuss the country's political problems, UN sources said.

Ban was last in Burma in May when he made an emergency visit to pressure the country's junta to allow entry of international aid and relief workers in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which left about 140,000 people dead or missing.

Ban was criticised at the time for concentrating on the aid and neglecting Burma's long-simmering political cauldron and the junta's refusal to free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners or to introduce genuine political reforms.

This week's visit is Gambari's fourth since last year to Burma, where he has been handed a mandate by the United Nations to deal with the country's military regime in addressing international concerns about human rights violations, slow-paced political reforms and the ongoing detentions of political prisoners.

The State Peace and Development Council, as the junta calls itself, has shown little willingness to comply with Gambari's overall mission.

On August 7 in Rangoon, for example, Burmese authorities arrested three members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions and two members of the 88 Generation Students, two pro-democracy groups. Their whereabouts remain a mystery.

Burma has been under the equivalent of martial law since 1988 when the army unleashed a brutal crackdown on a nationwide pro-democracy movement, which left an estimated 3,000 people dead and thousands more in prison.

Bangkok Post