Friday, June 26, 2009

Officials: UN envoy arrives in Burma

Protest rally in Tokyo with monks as Suu Kyi marked a grim 64th birthday in prison and activists took to the Internet and staged worldwide protests (AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura).

YANGON – A U.N. special envoy was in Burma on Friday to pave the way for a possible visit by the U.N. secretary-general that would be politically delicate because of the continuing trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Human Rights Watch and some governments have urged U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon not to visit now, arguing the trip could be exploited by the military government.

Riot police patrol High Court in downtown Yangon, 6/24/09. Lawyers urged Burma's highest court to reverse a ban on two key defense witnesses (AP/Khin Maung Win).

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate, is in prison and being tried on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after an uninvited American man swam to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days. But Suu Kyi's own party supports such a visit, and other countries say the alternative is to do nothing and miss an opportunity to have the U.N. chief press for Suu Kyi's release and push for more open and inclusive elections next year. Details of the visit of Ibrahim Gambari, who arrived Friday, have not been disclosed by the U.N., but some officials in Myanmar's diplomatic community spoke openly about it.

"My understanding is that Dr. Gambari is here to assess the condi-tions for a potential visit by the secretary-general," said British Ambassador Mark Canning. Ban's "commitment to achieving progress is well known," Canning told The Associated Press. "The issue — as always — is the degree of cooperation he can expect to receive." After arriving in Yangon, the commercial capital, Gambari was driven in a motorcade for a four-hour trip to the capital of Naypyitaw to meet government officials, an official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to the press. More>>

A rally in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, 6/26/09. A U.N. special envoy arrived in Burma today to pave the way for a possible visit by the U.N. secretary-general (AP/Ahn Young-joon).