U.N. special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is expected to visit Myanmar in early March. The talks are likely to focus on constitutional reforms and the junta’s decision to bar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from contesting in the planned elections. Earlier this month, Myanmar announced to hold a referendum in May on a constitution drafted by the military, and to conduct multiparty elections by 2010.
UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari (right) meets Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2007
Just days after Myanmar’s junta’s surprise announcement of the May constitutional referendum, the UN Special Envoy to Myanmar started another official visit to Asia. The first leg of his tour was China, a country which shares close diplomatic ties with the military government in Myanmar. Chinese officials assured Gambari of supporting political dialogue in Myanmar, but they also ruled out imposing any harsh sanctions against the regime.
Calling for cooperation
Gambari has now arrived in Indonesia. On Thursday, he met Indonesia’s foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta. He urged Indonesia and other Asian nations to join hands in helping achieve democracy in Myanmar: “[W]hat is important is that all of us work together with them, within the neighbouring countries, with ASEAN and the international community, to enhance the credibility of this constitutional process and to make national reconciliation more inclusive.”
Speaking to reporters, Gambari also announced that he would visit Myanmar in the first week of March. He said the upcoming trip would focus on discussing issues related to the junta’s "roadmap to democracy". This also includes the regime’s plans to bar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in elections.
Fearing flawed elections
Earlier this week, the junta announced that Suu Kyi would not be allowed to contest the vote because she had been married to a foreign citizen, violating the constitution written under the military guidance. The remarks have sparked widespread international condemnation. Many countries have already expressed doubts on the credibility of the elections scheduled for 2010.
“What is the reason for banning Suu Kyi from the contest? They should lift it. We expect them to hold credible elections,” said Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.
Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, won in the 1990 general elections. But the military junta rejected the polls and put her and other party members under house arrest.
Since last September’s massive anti-junta protests in Myanmar, international pressure has been mounting on the regime to introduce democratic reforms in the country. The junta even appointed a go-between to hold talks with the pro-democracy parties to seek reconciliation. But so far the negotiations have not yielded any results.