UN Secretary General Disturbed by Burmese Junta

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has again expressed his frustration over the Burmese junta's lack of democratic engagement as the country prepares for its first election in 20 years.

"It is a source of disappointment that, despite our best efforts, Myanmar [Burma] failed to utilize my good offices and engage meaningfully on issues of mutual interest and concern during the reporting period. This is a regrettable lost opportunity for Myanmar to pursue our shared goals," Ban said in a report on human rights in Burma.

"Myanmar's lack of engagement is deeply frustrating, as it not only contradicts its stated policy of cooperation with the United Nations but also limits my ability to fully implement the mandate entrusted to me by the General Assembly," Ban said.

"It also disregards the support that [UN] Member States have invested in the good offices mandate. Member States thus have an interest and responsibility to express their support by actively helping to ensure that Myanmar extends the necessary cooperation."

Ban reiterated his call for unity of purpose and action among interested member states, regional entities, multilateral development actors and international financial institutions.

"This is critical to encourage all domestic stakeholders to bring about positive change in the national interest of Myanmar," he said.

Referring to the Nov. 7 general election, Ban said it presents a major test for the prospects of peace, democracy and prosperity in the country.

"An inclusive and credible electoral process can serve to unite the country and meet the aspirations of its people for a better future," he said. Early this week, the Obama administration said it does not see any progress being made towards holding a free and fair election in the country.

Noting that the detention of political prisoners and continued house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi remains an issue of concern, Ban said it is regrettable that further opportunities to advance meaningful political dialogue among key stakeholders have not been pursued.

"The fact that negotiations between the government and key armed ethnic cease-fire groups remain pending at a time when maximum confidence and stability is required for any transition to succeed is also cause for concern," he said.

"While certain key stakeholders have determined that conditions do not make it possible for them to participate in the elections, the fact that some parties have decided to participate both nationally and locally suggests that some political space may have opened up by the standards of the past two decades," he said.

Ban urged the junta to release all the remaining political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, so that they can freely participate in the political life of the country.

"This will be the clearest signal of their commitment to a credible electoral process," he said. "Respect for the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association for all citizens, including engagement in political debate and access to the media, is also essential in order for the process and its outcome to be broadly representative and acceptable. Failure to fulfill these responsibilities could seriously undermine the credibility of the elections."

The international community is expected to raise the issue of Burma's national reconciliation process at the summit of the Association Southeast Asian Nations and related summits in Hanoi on Oct. 28-30. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to attend the meeting.

This is reprinted from the Irrawaddy Daily, with which Asia Sentinel has a copy-sharing agreement.