U.N. envoy sees progress in Burma, as China warns of potential chaos
Despite UN diplomat Ibrahim Gambari's upbeat assessment, Burma's military regime continues to detain dissidents.
A United Nations diplomat has told the Security Council that Burma's military rulers, who violently suppressed nationwide street protests in September, are making concessions to the political opposition led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Last week, Ms. Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since 2003, was allowed to meet with her political party and issue a public statement. A UN human rights envoy was also allowed to make an official visit this week for the first time in four years.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But deep divisions remain in the Security Council over Burma (Myanmar), and the sincerity of its promises of reconciliation and democracy. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the regime was no closer to making political reforms. A senior Chinese diplomat said separately that Burma was heading in the right direction and, in a dig at the US, warned that it should not be allowed to fall into chaos and become "another Iraq." Meanwhile, the regime has continued to detain Burmese political activists.
The New York Times reported that Ibrahim Gambari, the Security Council envoy to Burma, gave an upbeat assessment of the political mood in the isolated country after a recent visit. Mr. Gambari said the regime had released most of the 2,700 people detained during and after the protests.
"On balance, the positive outcomes of this latest mission show that the government of Myanmar, while stressing its sovereignty and independence, can be responsive to the concerns of the international community," he said.
Mr. Gambari, who has visited Myanmar twice in two months, said the ruling generals assured him that he could return "in their words, again and again and again."
But while he noted that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi had been allowed to make a public statement for the first time in four years and to meet with members of her political party, the military was still unwilling to end her house arrest.
"I have stressed to the government that the best way to make real their commitment to dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is to release her without delay," he said.
Authorities in Burma arrested more dissidents this week, The Guardian reported. Those detained included a prominent female activist who tried to draw the attention of UN human rights envoy Paulo Pinheiro, whose five-day visit ended Thursday.
Three young men distributing leaflets at a fruit market in the main city of Rangoon were seized as Paulo Sergio Pinheiro prepared to hold talks with the Burmese foreign and labour ministers in the remote jungle capital of Naypidaw.
Their detention followed the arrest in Rangoon yesterday of a leading female activist, Su Su Nway, who had been on the run for a month, as she tried to post a protest leaflet near Mr Pinheiro's hotel. It also emerged that U Gambira, leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, had been seized.
U Gambira, a Buddhist monk leader, had been on the run for a month, reports Agence France-Presse. During this time, Gambira – a pseudonym – managed to write a column that was published Nov. 4 in The Washington Post.
"There is no turning back. It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey. Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow," the monk wrote.