Sunday, February 28, 2010

UN envoy meets Myanmar ministers, not junta chief

A UN Information Centre-issued photo shows senior members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party meeting with UN special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana (right) in Yangon on February 18. The UN envoy has held talks in Myanmar's remote capital with senior members of the military regime but was not granted an audience with reclusive junta supremo Than Shwe.

YANGON (AFP) – A UN rights envoy held talks in Myanmar’s remote capital with senior members of the military regime Friday but was not granted an audience with reclusive junta supremo Than Shwe, officials said.

Tomas Ojea Quintana travelled to Naypyidaw on the fifth and final day of a trip that has focused on elections promised by the military government at some point in 2010.

He met Foreign Minister Nyan Win and was due to see the home affairs minister, chief justice, attorney general and police chief, before flying to the commercial hub Yangon and then Bangkok, officials said.

Quintana was due to address the media in Yangon on the progress of his trip, during which he has also met key members of the opposition, although not detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He held talks on Thursday with Tin Oo, the elderly vice chairman of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) who was freed from seven years of detention at the weekend.

“We met for about one hour. We discussed the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the political prisoners,” Tin Oo told reporters late Thursday. Daw is a Burmese-language term of respect.

“We also spoke of our request for a meeting between the Senior General (Than Shwe) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and for a meeting between (her) and our central committee members so that we can continue our work for the future,” he said.

Quintana told the NLD members that he had asked to meet Suu Kyi but had had no answer yet from the junta, Tin Oo said, adding that the party had not yet decided if it would take part in the elections.

The government has still not yet set a date for the polls, the first in Myanmar since elections in 1990 that the NLD won by a landslide. The military subsequently annulled the result.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi has been detained for most of the last two decades and her house arrest was extended by 18 months in August after an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.

Earlier in the trip Quintana visited the northwestern town of Sittwe, where rights groups accuse the junta of repressing ethnic minority groups.

Sittwe was the site of the first protests by Buddhist monks against the government in 2007, a movement that spiralled into the so-called “Saffron Revolution” that was brutally suppressed by the military.