Ibrahim Gambari — Special Representative of UNSG BAN Ki-Moon, and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the UN — did succeed in meeting today in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi . She has been held under house arrest for some 18 years, but today she was whisked to a Government Guest House for the meeting with Gambari. Suu Kyi is the daughter of a former Burmese opposition leader. And she is a former employee of the UN (they probably did not renew her contract — and she was apparently never promoted!).
However, Gambari apparently did not manage to meet either of Myanmar’s (formerly Burma’s) top leaders, who are officers in the country’s military, which has ruled the country for the last 45 years.
The UN has long sought to win Suu Kyi’s freedom, and national political reconciliation in Myanmar. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won elections in 1990, but were not allowed to take office.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that “Thant Myint-U, the grandson of former U.N. Secretary-General U Thant and the author of The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, said that the country’s two decades of isolation make the government very difficult to influence. ‘The military leadership is quite happy with the status quo, an inert country that is not engaged with the outside world’, he said.”
The LA Times also says that a communications clamp-down in Myanmar, aimed at stifling news of civic protests and violent repression, is still largely effective.
The LA Times story on the UNSG’s concerns about the situation in Myanmar is here.
The Associated Press is reporting that “On Sunday, the number of troops in Yangon, the largest city, swelled to about 20,000 after reinforcements arrived overnight, ensuring that almost all demonstrators would remain off the streets, an Asian diplomat said on condition of anonymity. ‘I think the chance of protesters coming to the road and mobilizing enough people to topple the junta is zero’, he said … People suspected of leading or organizing the rallies continue to be arrested, the Asian diplomat said, estimating the total number could be as high as 1,000, including several prominent members of the NLD. They joined an estimated 1,100 other political detainees who have languished in jails since before the current turmoil began Aug. 19 with protests against fuel price increases. With the main prison overcrowded, people are now being detained in university buildings and educational institutes, he said.” The AP story on the continuing repression in Myanmar is here.
The recent demonstrations have been galvanized by the large scale participation of Buddhist monks. The Agence France Presse reports today that “In dramatic scenes a week ago, the 62-year-old opposition leader [Aung San Suu Kyi] stepped out of her home in tears to greet Buddhist monks who marched past the house where she has been confined for most of the past 18 years. The march was part of nationwide rallies which erupted two weeks ago led by the revered Buddhist monks, and have evolved into the most potent challenge to the ruling junta for some two decades … The protests first erupted last month after a massive hike in fuel prices, but escalated two weeks ago with the emergence of the Buddhist monks on the front line and drew up to 100,000 people onto the streets last week…”
The AFP report is published here.