Recent arrests in Myanmar ‘extremely disturbing,’ says UN envoy

Ibrahim Gambari

15 October 2007 – The United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar today urged the Government to halt the use of force against dissidents, calling recent reports of arrests, interrogations and intimidation “extremely disturbing.”

The reports “run counter to the spirit of mutual engagement between the United Nations and Myanmar,” Mr. Gambari said today at a joint press conference in Bangkok with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram. “These actions must stop at once.”

Thailand is the first stop on a six-nation tour for the Special Envoy, who was dispatched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with Myanmar’s regional partners about the situation in the troubled South-East Asian nation.

Mr. Gambari reiterated the UN’s call on the Myanmar Government to release all political detainees, including those arrested during the demonstrations, and to allow access by Red Cross officials to those in detention.

He said during his trip he will raise with Myanmar’s regional partners the UN’s serious concerns at the continuing reports of human rights violations in the wake of the recent demonstrations, a point made by the Security Council in a statement issued last week strongly deploring the Government’s use of force.

The envoy noted steps taken by the Government in recent days, including easing – though not lifting completely – the curfew currently in place, appointing a liaison officer to start dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and the removal of the military from the streets.

At the same time, Mr. Gambari warned that these actions could be damaged by continued reports of actions “detrimental” to national reconciliation and to overall peace and prosperity in Myanmar.

In seeking to change the behaviour of the regime, he stressed that “all those who have influence in that process ought to be engaged.”

Mr. Gambari’s current diplomatic tour aims to achieve this ahead of his return to Myanmar next month. “The sustained and active support of the region, through the strong voice and engagement of regional partners, has to be there in order for Myanmar to move forward,” he stated.

Following his visit to Thailand, the Special Envoy will head to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan.

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