Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2007

U.N. envoy meets with Myanmar junta chief, democracy leader

October 3, 2007

Advertisement

— A U.N. envoy completed his mission to Myanmar on Tuesday with no word of progress on the military junta's refusal to address the people's insistent demands for democracy.

The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, finally met with Myanmar's reclusive leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, in the remote capital of Naypyitaw after days of delays. Neither side issued any comment that could satisfy the world's hopes for a halt to the junta's harsh crackdown on protesters, which began last week.

Gambari then flew to Yangon to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained pro-democracy leader. It was his second meeting in three days with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

The second session with her came as a surprise. As he flew out of the country, the United Nations released photos of a grim-faced Gambari and an equally somber Suu Kyi shaking hands at Myanmar's State Guest House.

Gambari is expected to brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council on Friday on the outcome of his trip, diplomats said.

While the military government has said only 10 people were killed, dissident groups say up to 200 protesters were slain and 6,000 detained in the crackdown.

Foreign governments have urged the junta to free Suu Kyi as well as the detainees, who include thousands of Buddhist monks who led the protests.

In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Myanmar's actions and urged an immediate investigation of the situation.

The 47-nation council said Tuesday it "strongly deplores continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar, including through beatings, killings, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances."

Swedish diplomat Johan Hallenborg, who witnessed last week's crackdown, told the council the Myanmar government was arresting monks and civilians "under the most terrifying circumstances" and was "trying to instill complete and utter fear in yet another generation of citizens."

In Myanmar's main city of Yangon, residents launched a new form of dissent, switching off their lights and TV sets for 15 minutes during the nightly government newscast starting at 8 p.m.

The "silent protest" began Monday and continued Tuesday, even when state television showed pictures of the Gambari-Than Shwe meeting, which included Deputy Senior Gen. Maung Aye, the No. 2 leader, and two other top generals.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, and the current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a much larger pro-democracy movement in which at least 3,000 people were killed. The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won.

Simmering anger against the junta exploded in mid-August after it raised fuel prices as much as 500 percent, a crushing burden in the impoverished nation. The marches soon grew into pro-democracy demonstrations led by the revered monks.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.