UN envoy hopes next visit to Myanmar will spur dialogue

Ibrahim Gambari

8 October 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy to Myanmar voiced hope today that his visit next month to the South-East Asian nation, where authorities have used force against peaceful demonstrators in recent weeks, will spur dialogue between the Government and the opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ibrahim Gambari’s role has been that of a “go-between,” he said during an interview with the UN News Centre and UN Radio.

“The authorities would not talk to Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition. She wouldn’t talk to them,” he noted. “But both talk to me.”

In his most recent visit earlier this month, Mr. Gambari said he impressed upon both sides that they must inaugurate a dialogue because “the earlier you start talking directly, the better.”

However, he expressed concern over reports that Senior General Than Shwe has “put some conditions on the commencement of that dialogue,” even though the Secretary-General has clarified that discussions must begin as soon as possible and must not hinge on any stipulations.

Regarding concerns that trade and business matters could overshadow unity among Myanmar’s neighbours in addressing the situation in the country, Mr. Gambari said that he has taken a proactive approach.

“I have actually taken the bull by the horns and went to the capitals of these countries,” he said of his stops to countries such as Japan, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I feel it is very important to gain their support, get their perspectives and also obtain their advice… because they are neighbouring countries,” he noted, adding that he will also visit these States prior to his next trip to Myanmar.

The Special Envoy, who has visited Myanmar three times since being appointed to his current position, welcomed the Government’s decision to allow more access to UN officials.

Mr. Gambari’s predecessor, Razali Ismail, was not allowed in the country for over two years, but earlier this year UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy were each able to visit Myanmar.

“The next step will be for them to admit Professor [and UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Paulo Sérgio] Pinheiro, and if possible, even the High Commissioner for Human Rights [Louise Arbour] herself,” he said.

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