Myanmar should release political prisoners, take other ‘concrete action:’ UN official

27 November 2006

Myanmar’s Government should release political prisoners, especially democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, open up the political process, and take “concrete steps” to address other areas of global concern, the top United Nations political officer said today after meeting with the Security Council.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the 15-member body on his four-day trip to the South East Asian nation that ended earlier this month, during which he met with top government officials, including Senior General Than Shwe, as well as with Ms. Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 10 of the past 16 years.

“Five major issues that I raised [during my trip]: political prisoners, humanitarian access, a more inclusive political process, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and a cessation of hostilities against the ethnic minorities, particularly in Kayan state,” Mr. Gambari told reporters after presenting the Council with a report on his mission.

“They need to release all political prisoners, including in particular Aung San Suu Kyi… now the ball is clearly in the courts of the Government… we are just waiting for concrete action on their part.” Earlier this month, the ILO’s Governing Body expressed “great frustration” at Myanmar’s failure to agree on how to deal with complaints of forced labour.

Mr. Gambari said the authorities had made “some small steps” since his previous visit in May, including the release of former officials from Ms. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), but he warned that the “good offices” process of the Secretary General towards Myanmar “cannot be open ended.”

“And we are now waiting for the Government to take further steps to respond to the concerns of the international community.”

Speaking later in the day, Security Council President Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru, which holds the rotating presidency for this month, told reporters the members had “expressed support” for the Secretary-General and Mr. Gambari’s efforts on behalf of the UN in Myanmar and thanked them for their active engagement to assist the country resolve its “political and social and humanitarian problems.”

 

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