YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - A U.N. special envoy arrived Friday in
Myanmar to pave the way for a possible visit by the U.N.
secretary-general that would be politically delicate because of the
continuing trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Human Rights Watch and some governments have urged U.N. chief
Ban Ki-moon not to visit now, arguing the trip could be exploited
by the government. The Nobel Peace laureate is in prison and being
tried on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after
an uninvited American man swam to her closely guarded lakeside home
last month and stayed two days.
But other countries say the alternative is to do nothing and
miss an opportunity to have the U.N. chief press for Suu Kyi's
release and push for more open and inclusive elections next year.
Details of Ibrahim Gambari's visit have not been disclosed.
After arriving in Yangon, the commercial capital, he was driven to
his hotel ahead of a trip later in the day to the capital of
Naypyitaw to meet government officials, an official said on
condition of anonymity.
A Western diplomat said Gambari would "prepare the visit of his
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not
authorized to release information to the press.
It is Gambari's eighth visit the U.N. chief's special
representative to promote political reconciliation between the
military government and the pro-democracy movement led by Suu Kyi.
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Thursday in New York that
Gambari will report to the secretary-general on his Myanmar visit
before Ban leaves for a trip to Japan on Monday.
Ban told The Associated Press earlier this week that he was
looking at the "appropriate timing" for a visit.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party said it would
welcome a meeting with Gambari. "I believe his visit will help
ease the current political situation in the country," party
spokesman Nyan Win said.
Another awkward factor is the possible delivery to Myanmar of
weapons aboard a ship from North Korea, in defiance of U.N.
sanctions. Although neither North Korean nor Myanmar authorities
have confirmed such activity, U.S. and South Korean officials
suspect that the Kang Nam is carrying weapons for Myanmar's
military, and its arrival could coincide with Ban's visit.
The U.N. has called repeatedly for political reconciliation in
Myanmar, including the release of Suu Kyi. The country has been
under military rule since 1962, and the junta refused to recognize
the results of 1990 general elections won by Suu Kyi's party.
Suu Kyi's trial has drawn outrage from the international
community and from her local supporters, who say the military
government is using the incident as an excuse to keep her detained
through the 2010 elections.
Gambari's seven trips since becoming the special envoy in 2006
have failed to nudge the military regime toward talks with the
But Ban's visit to Myanmar after last year's devastating Cyclone
Nargis was hailed as instrumental to getting the isolated
government to admit more foreign relief workers.