Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UN Chief to Hold ‘Friends of Burma’ Meeting

WASHINGTON — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will convene a meeting of the Group of Friends on Burma on Wednesday to review the world body’s policy on the military-ruled country.

Formed in December 2007, the Group of Friends consists of Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Britain, the US and Vietnam, as well as the country holding the presidency of the European Union.

Ban is expected to brief UN ambassadors from these countries on his recent trip to Burma and the latest developments in the country, including the ongoing trial of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN special envoy to Burma, is also expected to brief the group.

During the meeting, Ban will seek advice from members of the group on how the world body can move forward in its efforts to help resolve Burma’s longstanding political stalemate and other issues.

Meanwhile, in yet another effort to show the world that they are united against the military regime, pro-democracy organizations from both inside and outside of Burma have decided to form a common platform and launch a transition plan.

The plan, known as the “Proposal for National Reconciliation,” will be formalized at a two-day meeting in Jakarta on August 12-13.

“This is history being made,” said Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the Burmese government in exile, speaking on behalf of all the groups involved.

“The last time all major ethnic and pro-democracy organizations have forged a common position was in 1947 when all forces agreed to seek independence from the British,” he said. “As such, this is the first time an indigenous coalition has agreed to work together against a homegrown power.”

Sein Win said the alliance, known as the Movement for Democracy and Rights for Ethnic Nationalities, believes the proposal provides a means by which Burma can move through a phase of democratic reform without upheaval and recrimination.

The proposal envisages opening a process of dialogue with the junta, effectively offering a sustainable exit strategy for the military rulers. While it acknowledges a place for a functioning military, it presents a democratic future in rooted in civilian, not military, rule, said Sein Win.

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