Monday, February 2, 2009

UN chief should only visit if prisoners freed: Suu Kyi

YANGON (Khaleej Times-AFP) - Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon should only visit the military-run nation if she and all other political prisoners are released, her party said.

In a meeting with visiting UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, the Nobel peace laureate also criticised the recent slew of harsh prison sentences handed down to more than 250 dissidents.

Gambari, who arrived here Saturday for a four-day trip aimed at pushing the junta toward democratic reform, met with Aung San Suu Kyi and five members of the Central Executive Committee of her National League for Democracy on Monday.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD CEC members gave advice that Mr Ban Ki-moon should consider coming to Myanmar only if U Tin Oo, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners are released," said NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

Ban visited the former Burma after a cyclone devastated large parts of the country in May last year, killing tens of thousands of people. He did not meet Aung San Suu Kyi during the trip.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years locked away at her lakeside Yangon home, while her deputy Tin Oo has spent nearly six years in prison or under house arrest.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi also raised the plight of about 270 pro-democracy activists recently jailed for prison terms of up to 104 years, which she blamed on a lack of rule of law.

"She pointed out that the long prison sentences, such as 65 or 100 years, were handed down with no defence and no lawyers allowed -- even lawyers themselves were sentenced," Nyan Win said.

On Gambari's last visit to Myanmar in August 2008, Aung San Suu Kyi refused to meet the Nigerian diplomat in what was seem as a snub because of his failure to get any concrete pledges for reform from the ruling generals.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi explained to Gambari during their meeting on Monday that "she is always ready to meet" with visiting UN officials, but was not willing to hold talks unless there were tangible results.

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