UN troubleshooter in Burma for talks with junta

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma to prepare for a visit by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon against the backdrop of the ongoing trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
During his two-day trip Gambari is set to meet senior figures from the ruling junta but there were no immediate plans to see Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi or members of her political party, Burma officials said.

Gambari touched down in the main city of Rangoon on a commercial flight and was immediately driven to his hotel in a UN vehicle without making any comment about his visit, witnesses said.

He was due to fly to the junta’s administrative capital of Naypyidaw later Friday for talks with members of the military regime and would return to Rangoon on Saturday to meet officials from the foreign ministry, officials said.

Gambari is to brief the UN chief on the outcome of his mission and Ban will then decide whether to go ahead with plans to visit Burma early next month, according to UN sources in New York.

The UN boss and Gambari have been trying to persuade Burma’s ruling generals to free all political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and to steer their country on the path to democracy and national reconciliation.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 64, is being held in jail on charges of violating her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house earlier this year. She risks up to five years in jail if convicted.

She has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention since the ruling generals refused to recognise the landslide victory of her National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1990 elections.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and lawyer Nyan Win said her trial would continue at Insein prison on Friday, adding he did not yet know if Gambari would meet with the detained democracy leader.

“We will go to the trial at Insein prison today at 10:00 am. Like his previous visit he might meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but we haven’t got any information yet,” Nyan Win told AFP.

The charges against her come amid a wide-ranging crackdown on the opposition that has been carried out since the ruling generals crushed protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007.

The junta appeared to toughen its stance on the eve of Gambari’s visit when the national police chief held a press conference to show alleged links between Yettaw and exiled dissident groups based in Thailand.

Yettaw, a devout Mormon and US military veteran, has told the trial that he swam to Aung San Suu Kyi’s home because he was on a mission from God to warn her about a “vision” that she would be assassinate

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