Sunday, September 27, 2009

Myanmar must act now to promote democracy or face years of instability – Ban

24 September 2009 – The time has come for Myanmar’s leaders to make “clear and fundamental choices” – release democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners and hold legitimate elections or else face generations of instability and poverty – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today.

“It is up to them to choose how to respond to the aspirations of their people and to the expectations and encouragement of the international community,” he says in his latest report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to the General Assembly. “I believe that this choice may determine the prospects for peace, democracy and prosperity for the coming generations.”

Mr. Ban voices disappointment and concern that meaningful steps have yet to be taken by the Myanmar Government following the recent visit by his Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari, calling the house arrest of Ms. Suu Kyi “a serious setback to the prospects of genuine national reconciliation, democratic transition and the rule of law…

“The Government’s failure to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a missed opportunity for Myanmar to signal its commitment to a new era of political openness,” he adds, laying out three immediate concerns that must be addressed to ensure the credibility of the political process, with elections scheduled for next year.

These are: the release of all political prisoners and their free participation in political life; the commencement of dialogue between the Government, the opposition and ethnic stakeholders; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible and legitimate elections.

“Now is the time for the Myanmar Government to address these concerns in order to ensure that the political process serves the interest of all of the people of Myanmar, in a way that is unifying rather than divisive and that is broadly acceptable to the international community,” he writes.

“In this regard, I expect that the Government will take the necessary steps consistent with its commitments to ensure that the elections are fully inclusive, participatory and transparent, and are prepared and conducted in accordance with international standards.”

He also calls on the Government, in cooperation with the international community, to move from ceasefire agreements with a majority of armed ethnic groups to durable peace.

“This requires the exercise by both sides of maximum flexibility in negotiations that must be responsive to their respective concerns and interests, including those on the future status of armed groups, addressing of local development needs and curtailment of criminal activities in border areas,” he says.

“Equally important to the prospects of durable peace and democracy is the need to address the pressing humanitarian and socio-economic challenges facing the people of Myanmar,” he adds, calling for unlocking the country’s economic potential and harnessing Myanmar to rapid advances taking place elsewhere in the region to overcome poverty, raise living standards, promote social peace and pave the way for broader change.

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