U.N. chief to visit Japan in June, Myanmar in July
By The Associated Press
Thursday, June 18, 2009
NEW YORK, June 18 (Kyodo) — (EDS: ADDING JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY ANNOUNCEMENT IN 3RD GRAF)
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is expected to visit Japan at the end of June with the possibility that he could continue onto Myanmar in early July, U.N. diplomatic sources said Thursday.
During Ban’s trip to Japan, which will be his third visit to the country since taking the lead at the world body, he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Taro Aso and other Japanese leaders in Tokyo and discuss a broad range of issues, including North Korea, climate change and U.N. reform.
In Tokyo, Japan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Ban will visit the country from June 30 to July 2.
But the possible visit to Myanmar is “still under consideration,” though it could take place in early July, one of the sources said.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported out of Yangon Thursday that a Western diplomat was quoted as confirming that the government is ready to host Ban for a “very brief visit” early next month.
A potentially sensitive issue at the moment is the fact that pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently on trial on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after a man swam to her guarded compound uninvited and stayed two days.
The trial has sparked global protest and drawn outrage as some speculate the junta is merely using it as a means of keeping her detained through elections scheduled to take place next year.
If found guilty, she will face up to five years in jail. She has been held for more than 13 of the past 19 years since the junta refused to recognize her National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in 1990.
The High Court in Myanmar on Wednesday said it would hear the appeal for the reinstatement of two key witnesses in the ongoing trial, according to her lawyers, but no date has been fixed yet.
During his monthly press conference on June 11, the U.N. chief said that promoting democratization, including the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, has been one of his “top priorities” and that he has been engaging with Myanmar’s authorities though his special advisor, Ibrahim Gambari.
“When the time is appropriate and conditions are ripe, as I said many times, I’m ready to visit,” he said.
Earlier this week, Ban and Gambari received a petition signed by more than 670,000 people worldwide urging them to push for her release.
According to a statement issued by the Czech Republic, whose former President Vaclav Havel spent years imprisoned for his political activities and helped publicize the petition, more than 350 political prisoners have been handed out sentences of up to 104 years.
The country, formally named Burma, has been under military rule since 1962.
Ban traveled to Myanmar for the first time last year in the aftermath of the devastation wrecked by the Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. He was credited with playing a key role in pressing the military regime into allowing more relief workers and supplies into the country.