Credible referendum and election process in Myanmar’s interests, says UN envoy

18 March 2008

It is in Myanmar’s interest to ensure that its upcoming referendum and elections are as credible and inclusive as possible and to engage without delay in dialogue with the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the United Nations envoy to the Asian country told the Security Council today.

Briefing Council members on his most recent visit to Myanmar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari said that achieving democracy, national reconciliation and lasting peace and stability would also require the “instruments for sustainable development.”

Mr. Gambari, whose latest visit to Myanmar ran from 6 to 10 March, said it was “a source of disappointment” that this trip did not yield any tangible immediate benefits or results.

While he met with UN staff in the country, the international diplomatic corps, many Government officials and with other political figures, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he was not able to meet the senior Government leadership, representatives of ethnic minorities or with other figures, such as members of the so-called “88 Generation” group or the 1990 parliamentarians-elect.

But Mr. Gambari added that it was important to view this visit in the context of the UN’s overall efforts over the last two years and in particular the nature of the good offices role of the Secretary-General.

“Only, two years ago, high-level dialogue between the UN and Myanmar was non-existent. Similarly, only six months ago, there was no mechanism for promoting dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi…

“I have reason to believe that the Government attaches importance to the mission just concluded and continues to see value in the Secretary-General’s good offices as offering the best prospect for further cooperation through mutual trust and confidence and constructive suggestions.”

In addition, Mr. Gambari noted that the UN remains the only international actor to maintain direct dialogue with Myanmar’s leaders on the need for more effort towards national reconciliation, democracy and human rights and to have access to both the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Encouraging the Myanmar authorities to reverse a policy mindset that has lasted this long can be challenging, but it is imperative that we continue to do so with persistence and patience, and with legitimate expectations of tangible results from the process of engagement.”

The Special Adviser said the Government had taken steps to implement its own roadmap for reconciliation and democratization, including the drafting of a constitution that will be put to voters in a national referendum in May, ahead of multi-party elections scheduled for 2010.

Although he has been given assurances that all political forces in Myanmar would be allowed to participate freely in the referendum and election, Mr. Gambari called on the Government to take further steps to enhance the credibility of the process.

“While the referendum and elections are milestones in any transition to civilian and democratic rule, they are not ends in themselves,” he said, observing that “in order to succeed, any formal process requires political conditions that are conducive to ensuring broad and free participation in the country’s transition so that all can become stakeholders in their country’s future.”

Mr. Gambari, who briefed the General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim yesterday on his visit, also briefed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today and an international group of 14 States known as the ‘Group of Friends.’

During the Council meeting, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative U Kyaw Tint Swe stressed that his country had been cooperating with the UN and with Mr. Gambari and would continue to do so, adding that it did not pose a threat to international peace and security.

“The country is making significant strides in its national reconciliation and democratization process,” the Permanent Representative said.

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