Sep 30, 2007

U.N. envoy, Myanmar, meets Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's government unexpectedly allowed the country's leading opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, to leave house arrest briefly on Sunday and meet with a Myanmar. Gambari and Suu Kyi met for over an hour, the U.N. statement said, but gave no details.

But thousands of troops locked down Myanmar's largest cities, and scores of people were arrested overnight, further weakening the flagging movement. And Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar, failed to see either the junta leader or his deputy in his scheduled meetings. A U.N. statement said Ibrahim Gambari met Sunday with the acting prime minister, the deputy foreign minister and the ministers of information and culture. While these officials have senior positions in the ruling coterie, the final say in all decisions rests with junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and to some extent Deputy Senior Gen. Maung Aye. The diplomat was returning late Sunday to the military government's headquarters for a possible third meeting.

The U.N. has repeatedly failed to bring about a reconciliation between the military government and the pro-democracy opposition. Gambari and his predecessor, Razali Ismail of Malaysia, have also failed to secure freedom for Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace prize winner who has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in Myanmar. Her National League for Democracy party won the 1990 general elections, which the junta called after crushing a much larger pro-democracy movement in 1988. But the party was never allowed to take power, and many of its top members were jailed. Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

On Sunday, the number of troops in Yangon, the largest city, swelled to about 20,000 after reinforcements arrived overnight, ensuring that almost all demonstrators would remain off the streets, an Asian diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "I think the chance of protesters coming to the road and mobilizing enough people to topple the junta is zero," he said.

A few monks were seen in a neighborhood on their customary morning round for alms.
"We are not going to protest any more. Rather we will conduct peaceful protests. We Buddhists believe that dhamma (Buddha's teachings) will finally win over evil," said one monk.

Monks and residents spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals.

"We apologize to foreigners for feeling unsafe ... People in this country are very nice and gentle, but the soldiers are very rough," said one resident.

A resident who identified himself as Ko Hla wrote on his Internet blog that troops in downtown Yangon were searching every bag. "If someone got caught with a camera in it, they would arrest him. They arrested anyone that they suspect," he wrote.

The crackdown has triggered unprecedented criticism of Myanmar's generals from almost every corner of the world — even some from China, the country's chief trading partner, which urged the ruling junta to "exercise restraint and use peaceful means to restore its stability as soon as possible."

But China, India and Russia do not seem prepared to go beyond words in dealing with the junta, ruling out sanctions as they jostle for a chance to get at Myanmar's bountiful and largely untapped natural resources, especially its oil and gas.

Meanwhile, a video shot Sunday by a dissident group, Democratic Voice of Burma, showed a monk, covered in bruises, floating face down in a Yangon river. It was not clear how long the body had been in the river.


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