Thursday, May 12, 2011

UN special envoy to Myanmar meets Aung San Suu Kyi despite objections

May 12, 2011, 13:48 GMT 

Yangon - The United Nations special envoy to Myanmar met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday on an official visit that has been criticised by human rights groups as part of the military-run government's new 'charm offensive.'
After his talks with Suu Kyi, Vijay Nambiar described his visit as 'encouraging,' but cautioned that its outcome 'depends on the government's reaction.'
Myanmar held a general election on November 7 which brought the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party to power led by President Thein Sein, a former general.
'The UN and Nambiar should not allow his visit to be misused by the government to shore up its credibility on human rights in the absence of meaningful progress,' said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The New York based human rights group had urged UN envoy to push for the freeing of 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar jails.
'He raised the issue of the political prisoners but the government didn't respond clearly,' Suu Kyi told a press conference after her meeting with Nambiar.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy was in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday where he met Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin and other officials but was not granted an audience with Thein Sein.
Over the weekend, Thein Sein pushed for Myanmar to host the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in 2014 in Jakarta. The proposal was widely condemned by human rights groups.
'The chairmanship is not important,' Suu Kyi said of the bid. 'The most important thing is reforms within the country.'
Pearson warned that Myanmar's new regime was 'on a desperate charm offensive to convince the world it's a rights-respecting democracy, despite all evidence to the contrary.'
Thursday's meeting was Nambiar's first face-to-face encounter with Suu Kyi, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was released from six years of house detention on November 13. She has spent about 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest.
The UN special envoy last visited Myanmar five months ago, after the November polls.
The election was generally criticized by Western democracies since it excluded Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD).
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The NLD won an election in 1990 but was blocked from assuming power by the junta.
The NLD boycotted the November polls after the military passed regulations that would have forced them to expel Suu Kyi from their party in order to contest the elections.