Monday, July 6, 2009

Despite Humiliation, Ban Irked the Generals

The Irrawaddy News

Local reporters who covered the fruitless two-day visit to Burma by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon say that although he was humiliated by junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, his candid message to the generals would have irked them.

This picture provided by the United Nations shows UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visiting the village of Kyondah in the Delta of Burma to see the progress of reconstruction from last year's devastating cyclone which killed over 130,000 people.
Before leaving Burma empty-handed, Ban told INGO staffers and local reporters that the cost of delaying national reconciliation in Burma would be counted in wasted lives and lost opportunities.

“Nonetheless, the primary responsibility lies with the government to move the country towards its stated goals of national reconciliation and democracy,” Ban said. Failure to do so would prevent the Burmese people from realizing their full potential, such as their right to live in dignity, and to enjoy better standards of life in a broader freedom, he said.

Ban said he had called for the release of political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, because Burmese stability, national reconciliation and democracy must be rooted in respect for human rights.

“When I met General Than Shwe yesterday [Friday] and today [Saturday], I asked to visit Ms Suu Kyi. I am deeply disappointed that he refused,” Ban said. “I believe the government of Myanmar [Burma] has lost a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness.

“Allowing a visit to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 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.”

Ban Ki- moon will brief the UN Security Council on his visit.

“I would like ask him to describe the situation exactly,” Win Tin, a prominent leader of the NLD told The Irrawaddy..

“The international community must know the real situation in the country,” he said.

Burma, like North Korea, should be subjected to an arms embargo as a means of pressure on the regime to change course, Win Tin said.

Ban should also talk with Russia and China, who customarily use their vetoes to stall UN Security Council action on Burma, he said—and urged action by the international community to pressure the regime to release political prisoners and agree to a national reconciliation process.

Commenting on Ban Ki-moon’s remarks after his Burma visit, Win Tin said he hoped the secretary-general’s words would be followed by real action. “I hope Mr Ban Ki-moon’s speech will not end just in Rangoon,” he said.

Burma’s state-run-newspapers reported on the meetings between Ban and Than Shwe but did not publish Ban’s remark.

According to The New Light of Myanmar, Than Shwe told Ban that he would like to arrange a meeting with Suu Kyi but could not do so because she was on trial.

Than Shwe told Ban that Burma is focusing on two important tasks: holding elections in 2010 and forming the future government. There was no possibility now to pay attention to any personal cases, he told Ban.

Observers say that Than Shwe’s rejection of Ban’s request to meet Suu Kyi was a humiliation for the UN.

“There was never much chance that Mr Ban would succeed at gaining freedom for Mrs Suu Kyi or the other political prisoners,” Thailand’s Bangkok Post wrote in an editorial on Monday. “Nor was there a chance that the generals would heed the prestige of the UN and switch from brutal dictatorship to democracy.”

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network (Altsean), said the junta humiliated Ban because the Burmese generals assumed they would not be subject to any real pressure, sanctions and punishment for this behavior.

“I think if we want to stop the violation of human rights in Burma and war in Burma, it is time for the UNSC to take action on the junta,” she said. “At least the UNSC should have the commission inquire into war crimes and crimes against humanity that the State and Peace Development Council is afraid of.”

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