Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Myanmar invites UN in as stress mounts


Jul 16, 2008 - The United Nations said that Myanmar has invited a UN envoy to visit the cyclone-ravaged country, which is facing renewed international pressure to democratize and improve its human rights record.

The invitation to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, came in a letter from the junta's UN envoy, Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe, to Vietnamese Ambassador Le Luong Minh, president of the UN Security Council for the month of July.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters that the precise date and objectives of Gambari's visit had not been set but that he was expected to go to Myanmar in mid-August.

Security Council diplomats in New York say that enough time has past since Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar two months ago, leaving 138,000 dead or missing, and that it is time to ratchet up the pressure on the junta to comply with council demands that it improve the state of human rights and democracy.

At their summit in Japan last week, Group of Eight leaders called on Myanmar's secretive military government to lift remaining restrictions on the flow of aid and improve access for foreign aid workers, initially shut out of the country.

Shortly before the summit, G8 foreign ministers issued a statement urging Myanmar "to foster a peaceful transition to a legitimate, democratic, civilian government ... (and) to cooperate fully with Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari."

In May, weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country formerly known as Burma, the military junta extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, angering Western nations who had promised millions of dollars in aid to help the country deal with the aftermath of the cyclone.

Gambari has said his most recent visit to Myanmar was a disappointment and yielded no concrete results. One of the problems was that he was unable to meet senior junta leaders.

It was his third visit since authorities crushed pro-democracy marches in September in a crackdown that sparked worldwide outrage and a major diplomatic push for political reform in the former British colony, which has been under military rule since 1962.

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