Will Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Burma be fruitful?
Will Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Burma be fruitful?
by Mizzima News
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 22:04
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General will visit Burma on Friday. And during his two-day stay, Ban has sought a meeting with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling junta’s military Chief Senior General Than Shwe.
According to a UN statement, the world leader will urge Burma to implement three changes – the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, resumption of dialogue for national reconciliation and to create a political ambience and legal frame work conducive to holding a credible election in 2010.
To analyse the UN chief’s visit to Burma and whether he will be able to achieve his goals, Mizzima’s Editor Sein Win talks to Dr. Thaung Tun, the UN representative of Burma’s government in exile – the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma.
Q: As an envoy to the UN, what is the expectation you have of Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Burma?
A: Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Burma is an important stage for the United Nations in its efforts to facilitate a process of national reconciliation in Burma. The involvement of the Secretary General himself, in trying to help resolve Burma’s problems show that Burma has become a hot issue in the political agenda of the international community.
After Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was charged for violating the terms of her house arrest by sheltering an uninvited American man, who swam to her lake side home and stayed there for two nights, not only leaders from western democracies but also regional countries including the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China have called for her release and for national reconciliation and democratic reforms in the country.
With such changes, the visit of Ban can be viewed as a step forward and it is a good prospect to address the political problems in Burma.
Q: Do you hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will be freed, which is one of the important steps for solving Burma’s problem?
A: As far as I know, I believe the Secretary General will set his priority in discussing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. We need to view Ban’s visit as a process not as a onetime visit. We need to see it as the UN’s process of mediating in the political problems in Burma. Therefore, there is interconnection between the three factors that Ban has said he will raise during his visit.
Q: Some said the junta has agreed to host Ban Ki-moon because of pressure from China. Do you think the Burmese regime will listen?
A: For whatever reason the junta may be accepting Ban’s visit, it is a first step. And it gives the UN an opportunity to deal with the regime and talk to them. As I have mentioned earlier, if we look at it as a process, then regional countries must continue to maintain diplomatic pressure until there is a response by the junta.
Q: Some critics have pointed out that the visit of Ban Ki-moon might legitimize the trial against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. What is your view on that?
A: The Secretary General has said the purpose of his visit is for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. I remember that he had mentioned about it through diplomatic channels and in a press release. The trial against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has created a negative impact on national reconciliation as she is the main partner for a dialogue. Since she is essential for dialogue, the visit of Ban will not legitimize the ongoing trial.
Q: Opposition groups and pro-democracy groups have long called for a dialogue but the regime does not seem to pay any attention. Why is it so do you think?
A: Dialogue is a diplomatic means. For two sides to engage in dialogue several other factors are needed. Especially, for the military regime that holds power there must be a driving force that will push them to a dialogue. The situation must compel them for having a dialogue.
But Burma still lacks such a situation. And if we are to sum-up, the international community is still divided in their approach to Burma, and there is a lack of unity and collective force. And because of these divisions, the UN Security Council could not apply strong pressure that could result in a change in Burma.
Another factor is we, as pro-democracy groups, also need to act more for changes inside our country. I think we still lack unity, and could not pressure the regime to implement changes and we also could not inject the sense of the need for change in the military.
Q: Despite several visits by representatives of the UN to Burma, there have been no concrete changes. Do you think the role of UN is still important in trying to solve Burma’s problem?
A: We have all seen that the UN’s performance on Burma’s problem is not effective yet. However, the UN is the only body which can legally intervene and address the problems in sovereign countries. It is impossible to solve the political problems of Burma by political means without the UN.
Burma: Make Ban’s Visit Meaningful
UN Leader Should Stand Firm on Prisoners, Election, Political Dialogue, Minorities
Time and again, the UN has politely requested Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, but her ‘release’ back to house arrest would be a huge failure. Secretary-General Ban’s last visit followed Cyclone Nargis, yet the aid workers, including the comedian Zargana, who were jailed for criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis, are still not free.Kenneth Roth, executive director
(New York) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his trip to Burma should press the ruling generals to publicly commit to the release of all political prisoners and to engage in a dialogue with the opposition that leads to genuine political reforms, Human Rights Watch said today. Ban should not accept the return of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to house arrest or vague statements about political reform as signs of a successful visit.
Ban arrives in Burma on July 3, 2009, the same day that Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial on politically motivated charges is set to resume. Speaking from Tokyo on July 1, Ban rightly noted that three of most important benchmarks are the release of all political prisoners, the immediate resumption of national reconciliation dialogue between Burma’s military government and opposition leaders, and the creation of conditions for credible elections “which needs to be taken next year in a most objective, transparent and democratic manner.”
“Ban Ki-moon has offered Burma’s generals a roadmap to ending their international isolation,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “He should make it clear that the time for stalling and playing games is over and that real change is needed now.”
Human Rights Watch said that human rights conditions in Burma are deteriorating. Arbitrary arrests, intimidation, and mistreatment of political activists have intensified. In the last two years, the number of political prisoners has doubled to 2,100. Armed attacks on ethnic minority populations continue to lead to large-scale displacement. Basic freedoms of expression, association, and assembly remain almost nonexistent.
Ban has recognized Aung San Suu Kyi as an “essential partner” in political reforms and called her recent detention and trial “completely unacceptable.” She was transferred from house arrest to prison on politically motivated charges in mid-May. She has spent more than 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.
Other human rights defenders in prison include labor activist Su Su Nway, former student leader Min Ko Naing, and activist monk U Gambira. The military government has also unfairly tried and imprisoned at least 21 community aid workers who sought to help survivors of Cyclone Nargis, including Burma’s most famous comedian, Zargana, who received a 35-year sentence, reduced from 59 years.
“Time and again, the UN has politely requested Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, but her ‘release’ back to house arrest would be a huge failure,” said Roth. “Secretary-General Ban’s last visit followed Cyclone Nargis, yet the aid workers, including the comedian Zargana, who were jailed for criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis, are still not free.”
Burma’s military government has announced elections for 2010 as the next step in a sham political process that has dragged on for more than 15 years. Yet under current conditions credible elections are impossible, as many opposition leaders are in prison, many offices of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy have been forcibly closed, and freedoms of expression, assembly, and association have been sharply curtailed.
Human Rights Watch said that Ban should press the military government to lift immediately the restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and association in order for there to be any possibility that the 2010 elections could be considered credible. He should insist on a genuine process in which all political parties and ethnic groups can freely participate.
Human Rights Watch also urged Ban to express deep concern about rising ethnic tensions in border areas in the lead-up to the elections and to remind the government firmly of its responsibility to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. In recent weeks, Burmese military offensives have driven more than 4,000 ethnic Karen civilians into neighboring Thailand. Increasing tensions between the Burmese army and armed ethnic groups are evidence of the overall failure of the national reform process.
The Burmese government should make a public commitment to end the continued persecution of Burma’s ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority, whose members the government has long refused to recognize as Burmese citizens.
The UN’s recent efforts at mediation between the government and the National League for Democracy have not produced any concrete results. Ibrahim Gambari, the current special adviser on Burma for the UN secretary-general, has visited Burma several times, and his most recent trip was to organize Ban’s visit.
“There is a real danger that Burma’s generals will try to use Ban’s visit to legitimize the 2010 elections,” said Roth. “If no commitments for reform are made, Ban should clearly and publicly state that a process that mocks the very idea of fundamental freedoms and democracy will have no legitimacy. His voice could be a real call to action for the UN Security Council and regional bodies that have thus far failed the Burmese people.”
Inner City Press –
… is that Burma may become “Sri Lanka Two,” an embarrassment in which the re-imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi, like the bombardment then internment of …
Khaleej Times –
The start of the diplomatically risky visit coincides with the resumption of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest …
Reuters India –
BANGKOK (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to deliver the “strongest possible” message to Myanmar’s military regime to release all …
- UN Chief To Meet Suu Kyi RTT News –
- Myanmar Rally In Japan Calls On UN Chief To Press Junta EasyBourse.com –
- Burmese wary of UN chief’s visit Democratic Voice of Burma –
- Ban Says He’ll Urge Junta to Free Suu Kyi The Irrawaddy News Magazine –
- UN chief to visit Suu Kyi in Myanmar DAWN.com –
- Ban reiterates call to release Suu Kyi Mizzima.com –
- UN boss calls for release of Suu Kyi Independent Online