About 100 Burma activists rallied in Japan on Wednesday, calling on visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon to press the junta to free political prisoners including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Protesters said Ban, who is slated to visit Burma on Friday and Saturday, must press the military regime for a concrete outcome when he meets the generals ruling the isolated country formerly known as Burma.
“Ban Ki-moon used to say he would not visit until the military regime makes visible progress” toward democracy, said Myat Thu, 44, a Japan-based activist.
“I want him to achieve the release of political prisoners, like Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said, referring to the Nobel Peace laureate who has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.
Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported Wednesday that the junta had given Ban permission to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, quoting an anonymous regime source, but the report could not be independently verified.
Ban visits Burma as the regime prepares to resume the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside villa.
She faces up to five years in jail if convicted.
Ban has said he understood concern over the timing of his visit, but that he would urge Burma to release all political prisoners and resume talks with opposition leaders on holding elections.
The protesters rallying outside the foreign ministry held pictures of the democracy leader and chanted for democracy in Burma.
Japan has historically maintained relatively friendly ties with Burma and was previously its leading donor.
Tokyo drastically reduced development aid to Burma over human rights concerns, particularly after the junta cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in 2007.
However, the Japanese government refused to join its Western allies in imposing sanctions.