Thursday, August 6, 2009

UN Chief Repeats Call to Release All Political Prisoners

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said he hoped that the Burmese military junta would listen to the international community at this moment and release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular pro-democracy leader.

The secretary-general made his remark at UN headquarters in New York following a meeting of the “Group of Friends” on Burma. Ban said he had the support of all key international players on his approach to Burma.

“I expect that the authorities of Myanmar [Burma] will respond positively and in a timely manner to the expectations and concerns and repeated calls of the international community to release all political prisoners and particularly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Ban told reporters.

He said he briefed the 14-member group about the two messages he delivered to the military regime during his visit to Burma last month and to the Permanent Representative of Burma at the United Nations last week.

“First, my clear expectation and that of the international community is that the government of Myanmar will give careful consideration to the implications of any verdict in the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and use this opportunity to exercise its responsibility to ensure her immediate release,” he said.

“Second, the international community’s high expectations that the government of Myanmar will act in Myanmar’s interest by taking timely and positive steps in follow-up to the specific proposals which I made to the senior leadership during my visit, starting with the release of all political prisoners so that they could participate in a credible and inclusive political process,” Ban said.

“I am pleased that, in our discussion today, the members of the Group of Friends welcomed these messages,” the secretary-general said.

This—together with the statements of support issued over the past few weeks from the G8 Leaders’ meeting to the Asean Regional Forum—confirms the continued interest of the international community as a whole to see Burma respond positively at this critical juncture of the country’s transition, Ban said.

When asked if he has any indication when political prisoners would be released, Ban said: “I do not have any clear indication, except what the Permanent Representative of Myanmar has reported to the Security Council in an official meeting on July 13, if I remember correctly, that upon request of the secretary-general of the United Nations, the Myanmar government was taking necessary procedures to grant amnesty to political prisoners.

“I hope they will take necessary measures to implement their commitment,” he said.

This was the second meeting of the Group of Friends on Burma after Ban’s trip to the country last month. The first meeting was chaired by Ibrahim Gambari, the special US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“This was an opportunity for me to personally thank the members of the group for their continued strong support to my good offices’ effort. It was also an opportunity for me to hear their views on developments in Myanmar at this point,” Ban said.

The Group of Friends, founded in December 2007, represents a wide range of views on Burma and was established to hold informal discussions and develop shared approaches to support UN efforts. Its members are Australia, China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

The secretary-general said another meeting of the Group of Friends will be held in September on the sidelines of the opening of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters.

Meanwhile, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said she will send a team to Burma to press the military junta and rebel groups to end the practice of using child soldiers.

"Coomaraswamy is taking all efforts to address the child soldier issues all around the world, including Myanmar," Ban said. "This is a very important step."

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