UN chief frustrated by lack of progress in Burma

Dec 8, 2008 (DVB), United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has expressed his frustration at the lack of progress in Burma and said he will not return to the country until he can expect a meaningful outcome to his visit.

The secretary-general chaired a meeting on Friday of the Group of Friends on Burma, a forum for 14 countries to exchange views on Burma and develop strategies to support UN efforts.

After the meeting, Ban said the group had discussed current developments in Burma but had noted little progress.

"Since our last meeting, I sense not only a higher expectation but also a growing frustration that our efforts have yet to yield the results we all hope for," he said.

"I share this sense of expectation and frustration."

The secretary-general called on the Burmese government to make immediate and positive changes, and urged other countries to use their influence.

"I urge the government of Myanmar to respond positively without further delay to our specific suggestions, as endorsed by the Group of Friends, in particular the release of all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the initiation of a genuine dialogue with the opposition," he said.

"[All countries, especially the Group of Friends members,] should use whatever leverage and tools are available to impress upon the government of Myanmar to implement their commitment."

The secretary-general said he was ready to visit Burma again to continue discussions on humanitarian and political issues, but did not think the timing was appropriate.

"At this time, I do not think that the atmosphere is ripe for me to undertake my own visit there," he said.

"But I'm committed and I'm ready to visit any time whenever I can have reasonable expectations of my visit to be productive and meaningful."

But Dr Thaung Tun of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma said further action should be taken.

"The reason why the secretary-general said this publicly is to highlight the SPDC's lack of response to and cooperation with the UN," Dr Thaung Tun said.

"But it is not enough to just say it. He should not just do it to save his own dignity," he said.

"If there is no cooperation from the SPDC, it should be reported to the Security Council."

More than 100 former world leaders wrote to Ban Ki-moon last week to urge him to visit the country before the end of the year to secure the release of political prisoners.

But National League for Democracy member and former political prisoner Win Tin has said the time is not yet right for a visit.

Win Tin said if a world leader such as Ban Ki-moon were to visit the country and follow the junta's schedule for the visit, this could be seen as an expression of approval for the regime.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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