Tue 28 Sep 2010
Filed under: International
United Nations – Myanmar’s looming election will not be credible unless the military rulers release Nobel prize-winning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a UN ministerial group said Monday.
The group — which included ministers from neighbors China and India, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia as well as Britain and the United States — “clearly reiterated the need for the election process to more inclusive, participatory and transparent,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after the meeting.
“Members called for steps to be taken for the release of political detainees including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“This is essential for the election to be seen as credible and to contribute to Myanmar’s stability and development,” Ban told reporters after the meeting of the Friends On Myanmar group.
No Myanmar government representative was at the meeting, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Ban met Myanmar’s foreign minister, U Nyan Win, at the UN headquarters on Sunday though.
“I conveyed my strong wish and expectation that this election should be conducted in a fair, transparent and inclusive manner,” Ban said of his meeting with the minister. He also pressed for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest.
Myanmar has banned her National League for Democracy and nine other opposition parties from taking part in the November 7 election, Myanmar’s first in two decades. The opposition has said the vote will be a sham.
The junta has said however that Aung San Suu Kyi will be allowed to vote.
Ban said the runup to the election will be “critical” and that the ministerial group called on Myanmar to take “a more constructive and forward-looking approach” with the international community.
He added that the ministers, from countries with widely varying attitudes to Myanmar, “reiterated their commitment to work together to help Myanmar address its political, humanitarian and development challenges, in parallel and with equal attention.
“The group also reaffirmed unity of purpose and action to encourage Myanmar to make further efforts towards national reconciliation and democracy.”
The United States and European Union have sanctions against Myanmar. But China has shielded Myanmar from UN sanctions while India hosted Myanmar junta leader Than Shwe on a state visit in July.
“At this critical stage in Myanmar’s transition, it is all the more important that the group, and especially Myanmar’s neighbors, encourages Myanmar to engage meaningfully with my good offices,” Ban said.
The UN chief has expressed mounting frustration with the Myanmar junta in recent months. The government has even refused a visit by his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar.
“We have been trying to visit, somehow this year. It has not been possible. I expressed my regret about that fact,” Ban told reporters.
The secretary general has also urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar, to take a tougher line on the junta over the elections.
He warned ASEAN leaders on Friday that if the election was not seen as credible it “could reflect on ASEANâ€™s collective values and principles.”
Ban said he would again press ASEAN and Myanmar at the regional group’s summit in Hanoi next month. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also be there.
A UN rights envoy has called for an investigation into whether the junta’s treatment of opponents represents torture that could lead to a crimes against humanity case.
Ban said that any action would have to be decided by UN members.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in the last election in 1990 but the junta never allowed her to take office.