May 20, 2006

U.N. envoy meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: govt source

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Senior U.N. official Ibrahim Gambari met
detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a Yangon
guest house on Saturday, her first contact with an outsider in
three years, a government source said.

The meeting followed an audience between Gambari and Than
Shwe, the ruling military junta's supremo, in his new jungle
capital. It lasted for about an hour, according to the source,
who asked not to be identified. There were no further details.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, 60, has been in prison or
under house arrest for the last three years, with her telephone
disconnected and all visitors barred apart from her housemaid
and doctor.

Gambari, undersecretary-general for political affairs, is
the first senior U.N. official in two years to be allowed into
the former Burma, which has been under military rule of one
form or another since 1962.

Suu Kyi's brief trip to Gambari's government guest house
sparked immediate hopes among her supporters and National
League for Democracy (NLD) party she might be released soon.
She has been under house arrest for more than 10 of the last 16

"This makes us optimistic," said NLD spokesman U Lwin.
"Slowly, slowly, catch the monkey."

Gambari's visit comes amid mounting pressure on the NLD,
which won a 1990 election by a landslide only to be denied
power by the army.

Last month, the junta accused it of having ties to
"terrorists and destructive groups" and said there were grounds
to have it banned, although it would be allowed to exist for
the time being.

Since then, it has been hit by a spate of resignations,
which NLD officials blame on pressure from the military rulers.


On Thursday, President Bush renewed broad sanctions against
the Yangon junta for failing to take any recognizable steps
toward restoring democracy or improving its record on human

"These actions and policies are hostile to U.S. interests
and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the
national security and foreign policy of the United States,"
Bush said in a message to Congress.

"For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to
continue the national emergency with respect to Burma and
maintain in force the sanctions against Burma to respond to
this threat," Bush said.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda echoed the
U.S. call for reform on Friday by urging major Myanmar trading
partners China, India and South Korea to use their influence to
coax the secretive regime to allow more democracy.

Gambari has not spoken to reporters during his three-day
visit, which ends on Saturday.

The Nigerian envoy had also been expected to query the
junta about what appears to be their biggest offensive against
the Karen minority ethnic group in a decade.

Thousands of Karen, a mainly Christian ethnic minority
making up around 10 percent of the population, have fled to the
Thai-Myanmar border since December to escape what some
described as genocide at the hands of the SPDC, as the junta is

Gambari will brief foreign diplomats later on Saturday.