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Myanmar

Yearbook 2009

Burma. According to countryaah, the UN had no major successes in trying to push the military junta into democratic reforms. Envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited in February and met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her house arrest but was not received by junta leader Than Shwe. The World Organization suffered a severe loss of prestige when Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in July received an audience with Than Shwe but was not allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

2009 Myanmar

At that time, Aung San Suu Kyi was facing trial, charged with violating the rules of her house arrest by letting an uninvited guest stay overnight in her barred villa. The 54-year-old American John Yettaw had, for unclear reasons, swam across a lake to the opposition leader's beach site, where he had to stay until he had recovered after the long swim. In early August, Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison, which was immediately converted by the junta into 18 months of continued house arrest.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was pardoned and deported following a plea from a visiting US senator, Democrat Jim Webb. He was the highest-ranking American to visit Burma in many years, and it signaled a new line from the United States towards the country. President Barack Obama wanted to try to influence the junta through commitment, not just punishment and isolation. Unlike Senator Webb, Senator Webb got to meet both Aung San Suu Kyi and Than Shwe. Shortly thereafter, a meeting in New York was held between Burma's Minister of Health and US Deputy Foreign Minister Kurt Campbell in conjunction with the UN General Assembly's autumn session. Campbell then visited Burma in November, thereby marking the United States' desire for improved relations.

The many ethnic conflicts within Burma were reminded many times during the year. The UN announced increased efforts for the Muslim minority Rohingya in the state of Rakhine, which is denied citizenship, often put into forced labor and not allowed to move freely in the country. In June, in the state of Karen in eastern Burma, several thousand civilians were forced into Thailand during an army offensive against separatist guerrilla Karen National Union. And in the state of Shan in the north, about 30,000 people fled into China, escaping fighting between the army and local militia in August. A large part of the refugees were Chinese who mainly traded in the area.

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