Wed 31 Oct 2007
Filed under: International,News
UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari will arrive in Myanmar on Saturday for his second visit to push for democratic reforms since the junta’s bloody crackdown on protests last month, a diplomat said Wednesday.
Gambari’s return to the military-run country comes as US lawmakers consider the expansion of sanctions against the ruling generals, whose suppression of mass anti-government rallies led by Buddhist monks left at least 13 dead.
The UN envoy “will be in Myanmar from November 3 to November 8,” the Western diplomat said.
A Myanmar official who asked not to be named told AFP that Gambari would visit the country’s new capital of Naypyidaw on Sunday.
UN officials in Bangkok could not immediately confirm the precise dates of Gambari’s visit, saying only that he would be in Myanmar during the first week of November.
Gambari last visited Myanmar from September 29 to October 2, just days after security forces confronted protesters with batons and tear gas, killed at least 13 and detaining thousands in the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.
During his four-day trip, Gambari met with junta chief General Than Shwe and detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“The discussions that started then with his first mission will continue, and that is a good thing,” the diplomat said.
Gambari has since been on a six-nation Asia tour to step up pressure on the ruling generals amid global condemnation of the junta’s actions. His mission has gained wide international support, including from key Myanmar ally China.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 10-nation regional grouping that includes Myanmar and whose members have the most contact with the reclusive state, has also backed his efforts.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that regional powers must push for sustained contact between Gambari and the junta if Myanmar is to gradually embrace democracy.
“We have to give some sense of permanence to this mission. I say this with caution, and it will be possible only with the support of the ASEAN countries and also, of course, China and India,” he said.
Gambari was originally invited to return to Myanmar in the third week of November, but the junta agreed to push up the date after the United States and its European allies made it clear they wanted him back as soon as possible.
The Nigerian diplomat’s visit comes as US lawmakers consider a new bid to punish Myanmar’s military rulers by targeting the country’s multi-million dollar gems trade.
A bill introduced Tuesday in the US Senate would tighten sanctions by imposing a travel ban on top generals and associates, and outlaw the import into the US of gems and timber from Myanmar.
“We need to bring pressure to bear on the Burmese generals directly responsible for the violence against the peaceful protesters last month,” said Democratic Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Joseph Biden.
“But unilateral sanctions alone will not get the job done,” he added.