Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his growing frustration today that the United Nations' long-standing efforts to promote national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar have yet to achieve the desired results and he urged the Government to release all political prisoners immediately and initiate “genuine dialogue” with the opposition.
Speaking to journalists after convening a meeting in New York of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, a gathering of countries supporting greater dialogue in the Asian country, Mr. Ban said there had been little progress since the last meeting, held in late September.
“I sense not only a higher expectation, but also a growing frustration that our efforts have yet to yield the results we all hope for,” Mr. Ban said. “I share this sense of expectation and frustration.”
Mr. Ban said that while he welcomed the Myanmar Government's declaration that cooperation with the UN is a cornerstone of its foreign policy, he expected “a concrete action by them to implement their commitment.”
The Secretary-General has been pursuing reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar through his good offices role, as mandated by the General Assembly, and his Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari has visited the country several times and held talks with top Government officials.
“My good offices should not be seen as an end in itself, or as a justification for inaction,” Mr. Ban said today. “In order to be able to pursue this role in an effective manner, it is necessary that all concerned parties across the spectrum step up efforts to help my good offices move forward.
“I have taken note of the Group's concern that recent actions by the Government of Myanmar that risk undermining the prospects of inclusive national reconciliation, democratic transition, and respect for human rights, and more generally at the lack of sufficient response by the Government of Myanmar to the concerns of the United Nations and the international community.”
Mr. Ban urged the Government to release all political prisoners – including opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for much of the past two decades – as soon as possible. He also called for the “initiation of a genuine dialogue with the opposition.”
In response to questions, the Secretary-General stressed that he remains committed to continuing his good offices role and is willing to visit Myanmar again to discuss humanitarian issues and political issues.
“I am ready to visit any time, whenever I can have reasonable expectations of my visit, to be productive and meaningful.”
Mr. Ban pressed all countries – particularly those in the Group of Friends, which comprises 14 countries and one regional bloc – to “use whatever available leverage and tools to impress upon the Government of Myanmar to implement their commitment.”
The Group, founded in December, represents a range of views on Myanmar and was established to hold informal discussions and develop shared approaches to supporting UN efforts. The members are Australia, China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam.