13 July 2009 – Myanmar will gain a lot if it increases cooperation with the United Nations and the international community, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on the country’s authorities to work more closely with the UN to jointly advance the causes of national reconciliation, democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development.
Briefing Security Council members in New York following his recent two-day visit, Mr. Ban said that in his meetings with Senior General Than Shwe and other senior Government figures, he had “conveyed in the clearest terms what is expected of Myanmar’s leaders” on several issues, and now it was up to them to respond positively.
“The choice for Myanmar’s leaders in the coming days and weeks will be between meeting that responsibility in the interest of all concerned, or failing their own people and each one of you,” he told the Council.
“Myanmar stands to gain much from engaging meaningfully with the United Nations… Like all Member States, the more Myanmar works in partnership with the United Nations, the more it affirms its sovereignty.”
Government pledges to ensure that national elections scheduled for next year are free, fair and inclusive must be translated into concrete action, Mr. Ban stressed, reiterating the need for the immediate release of all political prisoners, particularly opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
“The refusal of the senior leadership to allow me to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi [currently facing trial] was not only a deep disappointment, but also a major lost opportunity for Myanmar.”
The country’s Ambassador told today’s Council meeting that the Government is taking steps to set up an amnesty for political prisoners so they can take part in national elections. It is not clear if the prisoners to be released will include Ms. Suu Kyi.
Speaking outside the Council meeting, Mr. Ban told journalists that the amnesty offer was encouraging but it was important to see how the announcement would be implemented.
He said the elections may not be regarded as legitimate or credible if Ms. Suu Kyi is not released and she and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), are not allowed to campaign freely.
The Secretary-General also emphasized the need for a resumption of substantive, time-bound dialogue with the opposition as part of the process of national reconciliation.
In his speech to the Council, Mr. Ban also discussed humanitarian and development issues, noting the progress made in the joint recovery and reconstruction efforts in the Ayeyarwady Delta, the area of Myanmar hit hardest by Cyclone Nargis last year.
He said it was vital to ensure that assistance in the delta region is expedited and humanitarian access is expanded to reach all vulnerable groups across the country.
The Secretary-General added that he had urged Myanmar’s senior leadership to enhance their cooperation with the UN to improve socio-economic development and to empower the people to participate more in their country’s development.