Military ruler open to UN visit but ‘at the right time’


Limited exposure: Suu Kyi is being held in prison in Naypyidaw and the government has refused to allow her to meet with any outsiders. — AP

The head of Myanmar’s military-installed government “expressed openness to arranging a meeting at the right time” between UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer and the country’s imprisoned former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the United Nations said.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing told Heyzer during a meeting on Wednesday in Naypyidaw, that in the immediate term “measures would be taken to safeguard her health and well-being”.

Myanmar has been wracked by violent unrest since the army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government in February last year.

The military takeover prevented Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party from beginning a second term in office, and Suu Kyi has been prosecuted in a string of criminal cases widely seen as politically motivated by the ruling military. She is being held in prison in Naypyidaw and the government has refused to allow her to meet with any outsiders.

On the UN envoy’s first mission to the strife-torn country, Heyzer called on General Hlaing to urgently halt all violence, support a political path back to civilian rule and democracy, and allow Suu Kyi to return home and to meet with her.

She also reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ extreme concern about Myanmar’s humanitarian, security, economic and political crisis and his call for the release of all political prisoners. And she urged Hlaing to impose a moratorium on future executions, following the recent executions of four political activists that drew worldwide condemnation.

Responding to a question on what Heyzer’s visit achieved, Haq said, “a key outcome” was a commitment by the ruling State Administration Council, which the general heads, “to continue the conversation and openness” to her proposals for urgently needed humanitarian assistance and protection for civilians.

Haq said a follow-up meeting was held with the chairman of the council’s National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee to explore Heyzer’s proposal “for an inclusive forum for humanitarian engagement.”

At the meeting, he said, “both sides agreed to work closely on a pilot under the special envoy’s convening role, and explore a humanitarian pause and inclusive delivery of aid in active areas of conflict.”

On Heyzer’s appeal for the release of all children, Haq said, “assurances were given no children under the age of 12 would be detained in prisons or other facilities.”

He said Heyzer was also promised that “lighter judgement would be considered for children of the age of 16 and 17.” — AP

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