Friday, April 4, 2008

Council members urges early end of military rule in Burma

New York - The United States, France and Britain called Friday on the Myanmar government and people to carry out a political process that would bring an early end to the military rule in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

The three countries, in a draft statement they hope will be adopted by the UN Security Council, also said they supported top opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's bid to run for president in 2010.

The military regime that has been ruling the country for decades had decided that Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, would not be allowed to run because she married a Briton, who has passed away.

The regime has put her under house arrest for more than 10 years. The three countries, who are veto powers on the Security Council, submitted a draft statement to be discussed next week in a move to counter the military regime's intention to exclude the popular Suu Kyi, who won the presidential elections in 1990 but was barred from taking office. She is also Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

"The Security Council affirms its commitment to the territorial integrity of Myanmar and, in that context, to helping the government and people of Myanmar to bring an early end to military rule and begin a transition to democracy," the draft says. "It reiterates that the future of Myanmar lies in the hand of all of its people.

"If adopted by the 15-nation council next week, the statement would be the second the council has ever considered. Issues on Myanmar had been keep off the council's agenda because of previous opposition from China. The council adopted a statement in October, 2007, to support the democratic process in Myanmar.

The statement to be discussed next week would express the council's "regrets" at the slow progress in reforms, including the release of political prisoners and detainees. UN special envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, has visited Myanmar at least three times since last September to engage the military leaders in discussion about the democratization process. But critics said the UN failed to advance that process.

The draft asks the Myanmar government "to take, in a timely manner, concrete, meaningful steps that result in genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations.

"It says the political process should be "inclusive and credible," allowing full participation of all political actors, including Suu Kyi. The draft says Myanmar's planned referendum on a draft constitution in 2008 should be free and fair before general elections in 2010.

It said political candidates should be treated on "equal terms" and that the government must guarantee freedoms of expression, association and assembly during the process before the referendum.

It calls for an independent monitoring of the referendum.

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