Myanmar's future must be rooted in
respect for human rights, United Nations Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon said today, voicing his deep disappointment that the
South-East Asian nation's Government refused his request to meet with
Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar was one of the first United
Nations Member States to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, but "unfortunately, that commitment has not been matched in
deed," Mr. Ban said in Yangon, at the end of his two-day visit to
the country. "Myanmar's human rights record remains a matter of
grave concern." He called on authorities to release all political
prisoners including Ms. Suu Kyi without delay.
The Secretary-General said that Senior
General Than Shwe's refusal to allow him to meet with Ms. Suu Kyi,
whose trial is pending, shows that the Government "has lost a
unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political
openness." He added that "allowing a visit to Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi would have been an important symbol of the Government's
willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will
be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible."
Myanmar's authorities have laid out
stability, national reconciliation and democracy as their goals, and
next year's polls, the first in two decades, must be "inclusive,
participatory and transparent," Mr. Ban stressed in his address
today to diplomats, UN agencies, and international and
"Sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity are legitimate concerns for any government," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, underscoring that "opening and broadening the political space is the best way to ensure that each group and each individual becomes part of the greater collective project."
This visit to Myanmar was the
Secretary-General's second since last May in the wake of the
devastating Cyclone Nargis, which killed almost 130,000 people. In
his speech today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lauded the
"unprecedented" cooperation between Myanmar, the UN and the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through the Tripartite
Core Group which he said showed that humanitarian imperatives and the
principle of sovereignty do not conflict.
"Humanitarian assistance in
Myanmar as elsewhere should never be held hostage to political
considerations," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized. "We
can and must work together to ensure access to humanitarian and
development assistance to all those in Myanmar who need it." Mr.
Ban, who met with Senior General Than Shwe yesterday and today, as
well as Prime Minister Thein Sein, also urged Myanmar to lift
millions of its citizens out of poverty by unleashing its economic
potential. "The people of Myanmar need jobs, they need food
security and they need access to health care," he said, calling on
the country to "take advantage of the opportunities that the
international community is prepared to offer."
Myanmar, the Secretary-General said, can only benefit from engagement and has stated many times that cooperation with the UN is the cornerstone of its foreign policy. "We ask it to match deeds with words," he said. "The more Myanmar works in partnership with the United Nations to respond to its people's needs and aspirations, the more it affirms its sovereignty."