YANGON (Reuters) - A top United Nations envoy held talks with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday but there was no indication the country’s reclusive military rulers were willing to meet him.
Vijay Nambiar met with Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, who was released from seven years of house arrest on November 13, for nearly two hours in Yangon but his itinerary did not include the capital Naypyitaw, home to government ministers and the junta top brass.
Diplomats said Nambiar’s failure to meet the regime on his first visit, just a few weeks after Myanmar’s first election in two decades and ahead of the formation of a new civilian-led government, suggests there could be many hurdles ahead in the West’s efforts to engage the generals.
Nambiar, who was appointed special envoy to Myanmar by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year, was scheduled to meet diplomats and recently elected lawmakers over the weekend. He is due to leave Myanmar on Monday.
Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years in some form of detention because of her fight against military dictatorship, has been given a free reign by the generals since her release, which has raised some suspicion about their motives.
She welcomed the Indian diplomat’s visit and called for more engagement with the U.N.
“We were able to tell him what we wanted to do, while we got a chance to know the secretary general’s feelings,” Suu Kyi told reporters.
“It was a worthwhile meeting for all. We need to meet more.”
A retired Burmese academic, who asked not to be identified, said the regime’s snub was a sign the generals were not yet willing to cooperate with the U.N. after years of strained ties.
“We can say it is the beginning of a new scenario: a new U.N envoy, Aung San Suu Kyi free from house arrest, newly elected parties and candidates and so on, but the key player is missing,” he said.
“Without meetings with senior regime leaders, something tangible cannot be expected out of this visit.”
Nambiar is a former Indian ambassador to China and is believed to have a good relationship with Beijing, a key ally of the Myanmar junta. He recently visited India, China and Singapore to discuss issues related to Myanmar and its political process.
He is Ban’s chief of staff and has replaced Ibrahim Gambari, who served as the U.N.’s envoy to Myanmar for four years but was widely criticised as being ineffective.
Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Andrew Marshall