UN envoy arrives in Myanmar
Tomas Quintana to meet opposition figures and requests talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2010 05:22 GMT

Quintana, an Argentine diplomat, has asked to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [EPA]

The United Nations' special envoy to Myanmar has arrived in Yangon for a five-day visit to assess the country's progress on human rights.

Tomas Quintana is to report on human rights ahead of national polls the ruling military has said will be held this year - the first to be held in Myanmar since 1990.

He has also asked Myanmar's military government for a meeting with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Qintina's visit is his third to Myanmar since he was appointed envoy in 2008.

In a statement issued last week ahead of his visit, Quintana said 2010 was "a critical time for the people of Myanmar."

"It would be important for me to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year's landmark elections"

Tomas Quintana,
UN envoy to Myanmar

"It would be important for me to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year's landmark elections," he said.

"I hope that my request to the government to meet with... Aung San Suu Kyi will be granted this time."

UN officials said that during his visit Qintana will also meet lawyers from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman and one of Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers, said he and three other party lawyers had been summoned to meet the envoy.

Busy schedule

"We four lawyers will meet with Mr Quintana this evening. We do not know the reason. It's their proposal. I still do not know yet whether the envoy will meet with the NLD party," he said.

NLD deputy leader Tin Oo was released on Saturday [AFP]
During the visit Quintana will also meet two members of the Myanmar judiciary, before flying to the town of Sittwe in western Rakhine State, located near the border with Bangladesh.

He is expected to return to Yangon on Thursday when he will visit the Insein prison facility where dozens of political dissidents are held, as well holding talks with representatives of the country's various ethnic groups.

Some ethnic groups along Myanmar's eastern border continue to wage armed opposition to the government.

On Friday, the final day of his visit, Quintana will fly to the capital Naypyidaw to meet senior officials, although he is not expected to meet military head Senior General Than Shwe.

Deputy released

Tomas Quintana's trip comes two days after the release of Tin Oo, the deputy leader of the NLD, after seven years in detention.

Tin Oo, who cofounded the NLD with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1988 was arrested in 2003 and held under house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years [EPA]
Human rights groups say the government still holds some 2,100 political prisoners.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

Her house arrest was extended in August by an additional 18 months, which would prevent her from taking part in the first national elections in 20 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party won Myanmar's last elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, refused to give up power and has constantly obstructed her party's operations over the past two decades.

It has said it will hold elections to a new parliament this year, but has yet to give a date for the vote.

The NLD has not yet decided whether to take part, saying the new constitution of 2008 is unfair and will perpetuate military rule, a claim backed by international rights groups.

The constitution guarantees that 25 per cent of parliamentary seats will go to the military. It also has a clause that would effectively bar Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office.

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