Junta fear UN chief's influence on judiciary

July 14, 2009 (DVB), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was denied a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Burma because of fears that he could influence the courtroom, said Burmese state-run media today.

Ban Ki-moon was twice snubbed over a meeting with Suu Kyi when he visited the country earlier this month, with the ruling generals claiming that the Burmese judicial system didn't permit a meeting with someone currently on trial.

An article in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper today however expressed "fear that his strong influence would have an adverse effect on the judicial system".

"If the court comes to have sympathy to the accused, and pronounce an order to release her out of the influence of [Ban Ki-moon], such an imprudent order will have negative impact on the nation's judicial system," said the author, Maung Hmat.

Legal experts say however that Burma's judiciary is under direct control of the government, and therefore the trial of Suu Kyi, which many label a pretext to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections, is likely to end in a guilty verdict.

A prominent exiled activist lawyer, Nyi Nyi Hlaing, says however that judicial independence is enshrined in Burma's constitution.

"Even the legislative and the executive powers can have no influence on the judiciary, so how could one guest visiting our country have such an influence?" he said.

He added that the true motives behind Ban Ki-moon’s rebuttal were questionable, given that Suu Kyi was allowed to meet with three diplomats from Russia, Singapore and Thailand during the early stages of the trial.

Briefing the UN Security Council yesterday on his Burma visit, Ban Ki-moon said that his refusal of a meeting with Suu Kyi was "not only a deep disappointment, but also a major lost opportunity for the country".

The last contact Suu Kyi had with the UN was while she was under house arrest in February, when she met with UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari.

She reportedly told him that Ban Ki-moon should not visit the country, given that she "could not accept having meetings without achieving any outcome".

The UN has, since Ban Ki-moon's visit, been criticized for its lack of authority in the country, with veteran Burmese journalist Ludu Thein Win calling it a "toothless tiger".

However, Ban Ki-moon said his failure to meet Suu Kyi should not be the sole measure of how successful the visit was.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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