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May 28, 2008 (DVB), Rights groups have criticised United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon for not doing more to push for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Burma.
Ban Ki-moon said in a statement yesterday that he "regretted" the government's decision to extend the National League for Democracy leader's house arrest for another year.
"The sooner restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures are lifted, the sooner Myanmar will be able to move towards inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and full respect for human rights," he said.
But Jared Genser of Freedom Now, an NGO that works to free prisoners of conscience around the world, said the secretary-general had not done enough to pressure for the NLD leader's release.
"I am disappointed that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon did not raise her case directly with general Than Shwe," Genser said.
"I think that he unfortunately bought into the rhetoric of the military junta and its allies who said not to 'politicise' the provision of humanitarian aid," he said.
"In fact, it's the junta itself that has been politicising the provision of aid by proceeding with their sham constitutional referendum and extending her house arrest."
Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner agreed that the secretary-general had downplayed political issues in his efforts to secure humanitarian access.
"They say that they're not talking about Aung San Suu Kyi because the priority is the humanitarian crisis and they don't want to talk politics because it will upset the generals," Farmaner said.
"Well first, the UN should not be gagging itself in this way, but second, there is still no evidence of the regime keeping its word on the humanitarian agreements," he said.
"The regime has lied and lied, the UN has fallen for it again, and now they're not even talking about Aung San Suu Kyi. It's a terrible situation."
Genser said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention was a violation of Burmese as well as international law.
"Burmese law says that a person can be detained for up to five years without charge or trial, under the state protection law," he said.
"And the United Nations on four prior occasions has said that this law itself is a violation of international law."
Genser and Farmaner both said the international community needed to take more action to secure the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
"I just think that the international community has to come together to press for her release and we are going to continue to urge them to do so," Genser said.
Farmaner said the UN needed to take a much stronger line with the regime.
"They still have not taken any firm action about the regime killing thousands and thousands of its own people by denying them aid," Farmaner said.
"By not letting aid into the delta region, they might as well be putting a bullet in the heads of those people," he said.
"And I'm sure that if they were shooting people instead of starving them to death, instead of making them die from disease because they have no medicine and clean water, we would see stronger action."
Reporting by Moe Aye