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UN Special Envoy Reports Progress in Burma Political Talks - 2002-08-06

The United Nations special envoy on Burma says progress is being made in promoting talks between Burma's military government and the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The U.N. special envoy, Razali Ismail, completed a four-day visit to Burma Tuesday. Though he reported progress in the reconciliation process between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, he gave no details about the talks when he met with reporters before leaving the country.

It was Mr. Razali's first visit to Burma since Aung San Suu Kyi's release from 19 months of house arrest in early May. Since then, however, little progress has been reported between the government and Ang San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposition party.

Debbie Stothard from the Asean Network on Burma, a human rights monitoring group, said early optimism raised by Aung San Suu Kyi's release has begun to fade. "At this stage it looks like the talks and Aung San Suu Kyi's release have been primarily for international community consumption and not for domestic reforms," she said. As an example, Ms. Stothard cited the government's continuing detention of political prisoners. Analysts say hundreds of political prisoners are in jail, among them at about 260 members of Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party.

In his meetings with Asian ambassadors in Burma, Mr. Razali reportedly called for them to exercise patience on human rights issues.

Later this month, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is expected to make an official visit to Burma and a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi is now being planned.