UN mission to promote Myanmar democracy heads for failure

Military gov't rejects proposed talks with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying it refuses to bow to big powers.

myanmar 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
myanmar 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A UN envoy's attempts to end Myanmar's political crisis appeared headed for failure Wednesday after the military government rejected proposed talks with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying it refuses to bow to big powers. UN diplomat Ibrahim Gambari seemed likely to leave Myanmar on Thursday without meeting with the country's most powerful figure, junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe. Gambari had proposed a three-way meeting among Suu Kyi, a junta member and himself to promote political reform and reconciliation following the government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September. "Currently, the tripartite meeting will not be possible," Minister of Information Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan told Gambari on Tuesday, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper. The trip is Gambari's second to Myanmar, also called Burma, since the military killed at least 10 protesters in late September and arrested thousands of people. Diplomats and dissidents put the death toll much higher. There have been only two open demonstrations since then. In what observers described as an angry lecture, Kyaw Hsan told Gambari that his earlier visit "did not bear fruit as we had expected," and instead was followed by new sanctions from the United States, Australia and the European Union as well as condemnation from the UN Security Council, the newspaper said. "I would like you to know that Myanmar is a small nation and if a big power bullies her ... we will have no other way but to face this and endure," Kyaw San said. The minister said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi had yet to respond to the government's request that she refrain from calling for international sanctions against Myanmar, a condition earlier set by the junta for talks with her. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern Tuesday at the "lack of progress" in Gambari's mission. Ban said he instructed Gambari to urge the junta to meet with Suu Kyi, release all detained monks, students and demonstrators, and "take necessary democratic measures." The UN's special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, announced Tuesday that he has been invited by the junta to visit Nov. 11-15. Pinheiro, who has been barred by the government from visiting since 2003, said the invitation "sends a positive indication of the desire of the authorities to cooperate with his mandate" to investigate human rights in Myanmar.