Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ban Warns Junta of Costly Isolation

The Irrawaddy News

Washington – Expressing deep disappointment at the failure to make any headway with the leaders of the military junta, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned Burma of “costly isolation” if it sticks with its current policy and ignores the concerns of the international community.

Briefing reporters on Ban’s trip to Burma last week, his spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said on Monday that the Secretary General was deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe had refused his request to see Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Allowing a visit, he said, would have been an important symbol of the Government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible,” Montas said.

Even as Ban observed that the junta had failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness, Montas said the Secretary General feels that his visit enabled him to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to the military government, and he outlined his proposals for progress while he was there.

“Among those proposals are the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners without delay, so that they can be allowed to participate freely in the political process,” Montas said.

Meanwhile the US Campaign for Burma announced that Ban’s Burma policy is “fundamentally flawed” and demanded immediate action by the Security Council in a press release on Monday.

“Ban not only failed to obtain the release of the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, or even a single political prisoner (out of the country’s 2,100) in Burma, but he also failed to even secure a meeting with her,” the statement said.

"For over a decade, the UN Secretary-General has sent envoys to Burma seeking changes in the country, a policy used by China and Russia as an excuse to avoid action on Burma at the UN Security Council. Finally, the world can see how this process is fundamentally flawed—without strong action by the UN Security Council, even the UN Secretary-General himself has failed," said Aung Din, executive director of US Campaign for Burma.

During his Burma trip last week, Ban met Senior General Than Shwe. "The United Nations must not allow its credibility to be destroyed by a two-bit dictator like Than Shwe," Aung Din said.

"It is time for Ban Ki-moon to ask the UN Security Council to pass a global arms embargo against Burma's military regime, while at the same time initiating an inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Than Shwe's regime,” he said.

Noting that the United Nations has used arms embargoes in numerous cases to press for change in particular countries, notably against apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, the US Campaign for Burma said a recent report commissioned by five of the world's leading judges and jurists found widespread evidence suggesting that Burma's military regime has been carrying out crimes against humanity and war crimes against its own civilians.

Two weeks ago, nearly 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to President Obama urging him to take action on crimes against humanity in Burma at the UN Security Council.

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