Thursday, May 21, 2009

UN chief says to visit Burma 'as soon as possible'

(AFP)–United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned" by the trial of Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and would visit Burma as soon as possible to urge the junta's chief to release her.

Ban spoke out as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate faced five years in jail over an incident last month when an American man swam across a lake to her prison home where she has been held for most of the last 19 years.

"I'm going to visit Burma as soon as possible. Now I am very serious in discussing with (the) government of Burma when I could be able to visit Burma," Ban told CNN in an interview filmed on Wednesday.

"I'm deeply concerned about what has been happening in Burma, in terms of democratisation and I'm going to urge again the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.

"When I go there in person, I'll discuss with senior General Than Shwe and other government officials on this matter," he said, referring to the head of the military regime.

Ban said the UN resident coordinator in Burma, Bishow Parajuli, had attended the third day of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial on Wednesday when the junta briefly opened the hearing up to diplomats and journalists.

"In procedural matters he met Aung San Suu Kyi and he had found that Aung San Suu Kyi was in good, healthy conditions. But, we are again deeply concerned about the detention."

Ban said that it was "unacceptable" for a Nobel Peace Prize winner to be kept in one of Burma's most notorious prisons.

"She's a democracy believer. We have a full support and trust in her. And also, she is indispensable patron for reconsidering the dialogue in Burma," the UN chief added.

The UN says there are more than 2,100 political prisoners still being held in Burma.

The regime refused to recognise a landslide victory by Aung San Suu Kyi's party in the last elections to be held in Burma in 1990. The military has ruled Burma since 1962.

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