Recent steps by Government of Myanmar are ‘setback’ to democracy – UN envoy

Recent steps by Government of Myanmar are ‘setback’ to democracy – UN envoy

Ibrahim Gambari
The recent crackdown by Myanmar’s Government after peaceful protests over fuel prices is a setback for the country and has the effect of calling into question the Government’s commitment to democratization, the United Nations envoy to the country said today as he detailed plans to visit Myanmar again as early as next month.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Special Adviser on Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari reiterated the call of UN officials for the Government to release all of its political detainees, including those people arrested in the past few weeks as a result of the demonstrations over the surge in fuel prices.

“These incidents of recent times cannot be seen in any other way than a setback for Myanmar,” Mr. Gambari said, referring to the Government’s response to the protests.

“They are all the more disappointing as they not only have the effect of calling into question the stated commitment to democratization and national reconciliation by the authorities, but also make it more difficult to maintain support, international support, for engagement with Myanmar at a time when we believe strongly that the country needs international assistance in addressing the many pressing challenges, from political and human rights issues to humanitarian and socio-economic problems.”

Mr. Gambari also described the National Convention process, the first step under the road map outlined by the Government for political reform, as flawed given that it excluded opponents of the Government.

“We strongly believe that there should be opportunities in the period ahead to improve on the outcome of the document of this Convention [which concluded yesterday] in ways that are more inclusive, more participatory and more transparent,” he said, adding that some provisions adopted at the Convention “would seemingly run counter to the objectives of national reconciliation and democratization.”

Mr. Gambari, who has held extensive consultations in capitals across Asia, Europe and North America since assuming his post earlier this year, said he expects his next visit to Myanmar – for which he has a standing invitation from the Government – could took place by mid-October.

“The expectations of the UN and of the international community are very clear and they require concrete results from Myanmar. I will continue to carry that message.”

The Special Adviser noted that the UN is the only international actor to maintain a face-to-face dialogue with Myanmar’s top leaders and with Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who remains under hose arrest. For three years, there was no dialogue between the international community and Myanmar.

He stressed that the UN is “moving very systematically to line up the support of the international community” to ensure that all key countries are working together to spur Myanmar to make progress, and it is making use of the Secretary-General’s good offices to pursue peace.

Mr. Gambari also said the UN is focusing its efforts on a much broader range of issues than before – not only the release of political prisoners, but also questions of humanitarian access and progress towards implementing the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in health and education.

“We feel that the broader the agenda, the higher the likelihood of finding common ground in order to make progress where progress can be made and demonstrated.”