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Article by: Reuters
Published: 18 Aug 2008
|UN envoy in Myanmar amid waning hopes for reform|
|United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in military-ruled Myanmar on Monday for five days of talks to try to kick-start negotiations between the junta and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. With little to show from his previous five missions to the former Burma, hopes of a breakthrough on Gambari's sixth visit are low.
"Frankly, we don't expect anything at all out of his visit," said one retired politician, who asked not to be named.
The former Nigerian foreign minister is expected to meet Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, who has been under continuous house arrest for the last five years, as well as senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD).
On the government side, much of his contact is likely to be with "Liaison Minister" Aung Kyi, appointed as a go-between for the junta and Suu Kyi after last September's bloody crackdown on democracy protests.
Aung Kyi has met Suu Kyi only four times -- most recently in January -- suggesting that his job is nothing more than a sop to the international community after worldwide condemnation of the crackdown, in which at least 31 people were killed.
The NLD won an election landslide in 1990, only to be denied power by the military, which has ruled unchecked since a 1962 coup.
In May, the generals brushed aside the devastation and 134,000 deaths caused by Cyclone Nargis to stage a referendum on a new constitution that passed with more than 92 percent approval. There was no independent monitoring of the vote.
Under a seven-step "roadmap to democracy", the passage of the charter means multi-party elections will take place in 2010, although the generals will be handing over little if any real power to an elected leadership.
The military will have an automatic 25 percent of seats in parliament, control of key ministries and the right to suspend the constitution at will.
The referendum means Gambari has even less room to manoeuvre than before.
"He won't be able to make the regime deviate from its roadmap," the retired politician said. "The only way to break the deadlock is to persuade the NLD to run in the 2010 election and to ask the regime to make it as free and fair as possible."
The charter also bans Myanmar nationals from political office if they have foreign spouses or children with foreign passports -- a clause said to prevent the election of Suu Kyi. Her husband, now dead but with whom she had two sons, was British.