Myanmar should release all political prisoners, Ban says ahead of visit

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) at joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone of Japan

30 June 2009 – Myanmar should release all political prisoners, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today ahead of a planned visit to the Asian country for talks with the leadership on key issues.

Mr. Ban, who is scheduled to visit Myanmar for two days starting on Friday, told journalists in Japan – where he has begun a five-country international tour – that he realized there were concerns about the timing of the visit given that the trial of Ms. Suu Kyi is pending.

“It may be the case that the trial may happen during my visit in Myanmar. I am very much conscious of that. At the same time, to find the most appropriate timing has been a challenge for me, too,” he said.

The Secretary-General said he would use the visit to try to “raise in the strongest possible terms” the concerns of the international community about the situation inside Myanmar.

Mr. Ban reiterated that the authorities should release all political prisoners, including Ms. Suu Kyi, immediately resume dialogue between the Government and opposition leaders, and create both a political atmosphere and a legal framework conducive to the holding of credible elections next year.

“This is the commitment and concerns and aspiration of the international community. I am going to convey this strongly to Senior General Than Shwe and other leaders,” he said, adding that he also hopes to have dialogue with grassroots groups during his visit.

He last visited Myanmar in May 2008 in the wake of the catastrophic impact of Cyclone Nargis, which killed almost 150,000 people, and he said today that he hopes to build on the joint humanitarian efforts that emerged following that disaster.

While in Japan, Mr. Ban has held talks with the country’s Foreign Minister, Hirofumi Nakasone, with the two men discussing Myanmar, UN-Japanese cooperation and the implementation of the Security Council resolution on the recent nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“I urge the North Korean authorities to refrain from taking any further measures which may deteriorate the already very serious situation,” the Secretary-General said to reporters. “These measures taken by the DPRK authorities run counter to the ongoing international community’s efforts to realize nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Tomorrow Mr. Ban is slated to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, other political leaders, business figures, UN goodwill ambassadors, students and children.

After visiting Japan and Myanmar on this trip, the UN chief is scheduled to travel to Switzerland, Ireland and Italy.


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