13 November 2007 The United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar today urged the South-East Asian nation to immediately begin talks between the Government and the opposition, stressing that dialogue was the only way forward to address the country’s ongoing crisis.
“In today’s world, no country can afford to stay outside the irreversible trends towards stability, prosperity and democracy, and it is the responsibility of every government to listen to its people, respond to legitimate popular demands and respect in full the human rights of its citizens,” Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council today.
Briefing the 15-member body on his latest mission to the country, he said that “in the case of Myanmar, this implies starting a dialogue without delay between the Government and the opposition as a necessary part of any reconciliation process, and addressing the humanitarian and socio-economic factors underlying popular grievances.”
He stated that a process is now in motion that will hopefully lead to a substantive dialogue with concrete outcomes within an agreed time frame between the leadership of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “In order to succeed, dialogue will require flexibility on all sides, but I am convinced that it is the only way forward for Myanmar.”
Mr. Gambari, who visited Myanmar from 3 to 8 November, told the Council it is important to note the initial positive steps taken by the Government since his last visit, including the lifting of curfews put in place during the demonstrations, the withdrawal of a visible military presence from the streets and the release of over 2,700 people detained during the course of the protests.
In addition, the Government has appointed a liaison officer to pursue dialogue with Ms. Suu Kyi, set up a constitutional drafting committee and agreed to receive the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.
At the same time, he reported that the Government has yet to provide any assurance that it will lift restrictions on Ms. Suu Kyi. “I have stressed to the Government that the best way to make real their commitment to dialogue with Daw Aung Suu Kyi is to release her without delay so that she can become a full partner in dialogue.”
Mr. Gambari said that although his mission did not produce all the results he had hoped for, there were a number of positive outcomes.
Among them was the fact that, for the first time since she was last put under house arrest in May 2003, Ms. Suu Kyi was allowed to pronounce herself publicly through a statement read by the Special Adviser on 8 November. Following that statement, she was also allowed for the first time in four years to meet with members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
In addition, the Government assured the Special Adviser that it would release more detainees and that no more arrests would be carried out, and it agreed in principle to consider establishing a broad-based poverty alleviation commission.
With regard to the UN Country Team in Myanmar, Mr. Gambari reported that an agreement was reached with the authorities, whereby an acting Resident Coordinator would take over until a new Resident Coordinator was appointed. The government had informed the UN that it did not want the current Resident Coordinator Charles Petrie to continue working in the country.
“The positive outcomes of this latest mission show that the Government of Myanmar, while stressing its sovereignty and independence, can be responsive to the concerns of the international community,” Mr. Gambari stated.
He added that “although high expectations continue to be borne out of the recent crisis, the situation today is qualitatively different from what it was a few weeks ago.”
Mr. Gambari, who has been invited to return to Myanmar by the Government, also informed the Council about the consultations he carried out in key regional capitals prior to visiting Myanmar.
Myanmar’s Ambassador U Kyaw Tint Swe told the Council that the challenges facing his country were complex and delicate; the Government was promoting national unity and national reconciliation, while at the same time laying firm foundations for an enduring democracy.
“Today, the nation can look forward with high expectations to the birth of a new era,” he stated.
Noting that both parties to the national reconciliation process had expressed satisfaction with the ongoing dialogue, he stressed that “this is the time for encouragement and not undue outside pressure.”
The good offices role mandated by the General Assembly should be allowed to play its catalytic role in facilitating the national reconciliation process, the Ambassador said, adding that the Council should provide encouragement and refrain from taking any action at the current critical juncture.
. In a statement to the press following the meeting, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council for this month, said the Council welcomed recent positive steps by the generals but members had expressed concern “that many prisoners are still in jail and new arrests have occurred.”
The Council also stressed the need for the Myanmar Government to “create conditions for dialogue and reconciliation by relaxing, as a first step, the conditions of detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and by pursuing the release of political prisoners and detainees.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Pinheiro continued his mission to Myanmar today with a visit to the new capital, Nay Pyi Taw, where he met the Home Minister Maj.-Gen. Maung Oo, who assured him that he will be able to interview detainees before the end of his mission, as requested.
The Special Rapporteur also met with 20 members of the newly-established human rights body within the government, and engaged in a dialogue on issues of mutual concern.
Later in the afternoon, he held a meeting with representatives of international non-governmental organizations, as well as with government officials dealing with religion and economic development.
Mr. Pinheiro has said he intends to use the 11 to 15 November visit to verify allegations of abuses during the Government’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, determine the numbers and whereabouts of those detained or killed, and collect testimony about what happened.