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BURMA: Will the UN envoy visit to Burma bring any positive results?

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133.jpgUnited Nation's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari will visit Burma again from 31 January to 3 February 2009. According to Mizzima News,an independent newspaper on Burma issues, Gambari is expected to meet senior members of the military government, opposition leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi's who is currently under house-arrest in Rangoon, and representatives of the country's ethnic minorities. This would be his first visit in five months, and his seventh since he took up the job in early 2006.

According to the newspaper, most analysts remain pessimistic that Gambari will be able to achieve much. However, the paper added that main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi is hopeful that the visit will at least break the ice, and may lead to renewed contact between them and the junta, and the possible start of tentative talks – at least at a lower level within the regime.

The envoy is expected to meet the opposition leader on this trip. She declined to see him last time even though she had on his previous visits. The opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate has been under house arrest for more than 13 of the last 20 years. Her detention order runs out in late May. But it is expected to be renewed for a further year at that time.

The real test of whether the envoy's forthcoming trip is going to be more successful than usual will be whether he is able to meet the junta supremo, Than Shwe. The Senior General had refused to meet him on his last few visits.

The UN visit also comes in the wake of a massive crackdown on dissidents. In the past few months the government has handed down harsh prison sentences to more than a hundred pro-democracy activists. Some diplomats believe that Mr. Gambari's top objective, is to sound out the situation in readiness for a rescheduled visit by the UN boss.

Ban Ki-moon maybe planning visit Burma in the first part of this year, either after the ASEAN Summit next month, or more likely the ASEAN-UN summit scheduled to be held in Thailand in April.