Myanmar’s release of political prisoners insufficient, UN envoy says

20 May 2011

The top United Nations envoy for Myanmar has told the Security Council that while the country has taken small steps in the right direction by releasing some political prisoners and reducing the sentences of others, the measures have been short of expectation and insufficient.

Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, briefed the Council yesterday in a closed door session on his three-day visit last week to the country.

Mr. Nambiar said the visit offered an opportunity for the UN to engage with the new Government, six weeks after it was installed, and to build on existing dialogue with key stakeholders.

He welcomed the Government’s recognition of Myanmar’s most pressing political and economic challenges and the need to address them in a way that strengthens national unity and reconciliation, according to information released by the UN spokesperson’s office.

The Government made an explicit commitment to keep the “peace door” open to political forces that had not accepted the recently adopted constitution or political roadmap, he said.

“While the Government’s stated commitments were encouraging at this stage, he noted that gaining international confidence was as much a factor of leadership and policies as of delivering on popular expectations,” the spokesperson noted.

During the visit Mr. Nambiar reiterated the UN’s call for the urgent release of all political prisoners.

While the initial sentence reductions and resulting release of some political prisoners is a small step in the right direction, it has been short of expectation and is insufficient, he said.

“We continue to urge the Myanmar authorities to do more in order to be consistent both with their recent stated commitments and to meet the expectations of both its own people and the international community.”

The Special Adviser also conveyed to the Council the gist of his conversations with Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League For Democracy (NLD), as well as Myanmar's other political opposition groups, ethnic groups and representatives of civil society. He said the real test would be whether – or how quickly – the new climate can translate to a change in content.

A meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar is likely to be scheduled in the near future, the UN spokesperson said.

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