A United Nations special envoy is in Burma to
prepare for a possible visit by the U.N. secretary-general. The visit comes as
Burma's military-run government is threatening democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
with up to five years in prison for violating the terms of her house arrest.
Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, arrived Friday in the isolated
nation. He is expected to meet with Burmese
officials to discuss a possible visit next month by the U.N. Secretary-General
It is not clear if Gambari
will meet with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now on trial
for violating the terms of her house arrest.
Nonetheless, the U.N. envoy's visit was welcomed by her
opposition National League for Democracy party and cautious rights
Debbie Stothard is
coordinator of the alternative ASEAN network on Burma, a regional human rights
"It will help if Mr. Gambari
is able to deliver an ultimatum on behalf of the international community which
is also backed by China, for example, that the regime should release Aung San
Suu Kyi and call off the trial and proceed with a genuine dialogue process," she
This is the U.N. envoy's
eighth trip to Burma as part of so far unsuccessful efforts to see political
prisoners released and democracy restored.
The U.N. secretary-general is considering whether his own visit
would help those efforts.
The U.N.'s spokesman in Burma
was not authorized to give any details on Gambari's trip, underscoring the
political sensitivities of the discussions.
Stothard said if Gambari cannot get any concessions from
Burma's military rulers, a trip by the U.N. chief would be a waste of
"Mr. Ban Ki Moon's arrival in Burma should be
based on the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released and that the regime is
taking genuine steps to move towards democratization. And, that also includes
the release of all political prisoners, including ethnic leaders," she
Aung San Suu Kyi is facing up
to five years in prison for allowing an uninvited American man to stay in her
house without official permission.
The trial is believed to be
an excuse to keep the Nobel Peace Prize winner locked up through next year's
The NLD won Burma's last
elections in 1990 but the military never allowed them to take power and has kept
Aung San Suu Kyi in her house for most of the last 19 years.
The American man, John Yettaw, and two of Aung San Suu Kyi's
aids are facing similar jail time.
Burma's military government
does not tolerate dissent and currently has more than 2,000 political prisoners