UN Myanmar envoy begins talks with junta officials

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The UN's new special envoy for Myanmar began meetings with top junta officials on Wednesday but did not respond to questions about whether she would seek to meet ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Noeleen Heyzer's visit to the crisis-wracked country, which began on Tuesday, “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns as well as other priority areas of her mandate,” the UN has said.

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Heyzer did not respond to AFP questions on whether she would meet Suu Kyi on Wednesday as she left her hotel in a motorcade escorted by police and plainclothes security forces.

Suu Kyi, 77, has been detained since the military's coup and on Monday received another prison term in a secretive junta court – raising her total sentence to 17 years.

Heyzer was set to meet the junta's foreign affairs minister and chief Min Aung Hlaing later on Wednesday, spokesman Zaw Min Tun told a press conference. “We are hoping to get good results [from the meeting],” he said.

Myanmar has been embroiled in turmoil since the military seized power in February 2021, prompting fierce resistance and spawning informal militias.

Over 2,200 people have been killed and over 15,000 arrested in the military's crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis led by the UN and the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc have made little headway, with the generals refusing to engage with opponents.

Last month the junta triggered renewed international condemnation when it executed Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, for offences under anti-terrorism laws.

Singaporean sociologist Heyzer was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year, replacing Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener.

Schraner Burgener had called for the UN to take “very strong measures” against the military and was the target of regular broadsides in Myanmar's state-backed media.

Military leaders blocked her from visiting the country, where she had hoped to meet with Suu Kyi.

In December state media reported the junta had closed her Myanmar office, saying her work in Myanmar had “concluded.”

There have been no reports in state media about whether Heyzer will be allowed to open an office in the country.

Rights groups said they had little optimism her visit would persuade the military to end its bloody crackdown and engage in dialogue with opponents of its coup.

“UN envoys have visited when the military told them to, stayed where the military told them to, met who the military arranged for them to meet and then left when the military told them to,” tweeted Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK.

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