Secretary-General, Briefing Security Council, Calls Myanmar’s Refusal to Grant Meeting with Jailed Opposition Leader a Lost Opportunity

13 July 2009
SC/9704

Secretary-General, Briefing Security Council, Calls Myanmar’s Refusal to Grant Meeting with Jailed Opposition Leader a Lost Opportunity

13 July 2009
Security Council
SC/9704
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6161st Meeting (AM)

Secretary-General, briefing Security Council, calls myanmar’s refusal

to grant meeting with jailed opposition leader a lost opportunity

The refusal by Myanmar’s senior leadership to allow Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was not only a deep disappointment, but also a major lost opportunity for the country, he told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council on his recent visit to Myanmar, he said that allowing such a meeting would have sent a constructive, conciliatory signal inside the country and abroad.  He said that, during two meetings with Senior General Than Shwe, the Head of State, and one with General Thein Sein, the Prime Minister, he had made special proposals with a particular focus on three outstanding concerns that could undermine confidence in the political process if not addressed:  the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the resumption of a substantive dialogue between the Government and the opposition; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible and legitimate elections in 2010.

He went on to say he had proposed that the senior leadership enhance cooperation with the United Nations to address pressing development needs through a broad-based process involving all sectors of society.  Empowering the people to participate in development was equally important for stability, democracy and prosperity, and in order to ensure that Myanmar benefited fully from, and contributed to, the regional and global economy.  “I have made clear my expectation, and that of the international community, that the Government needs to deliver on the promise to make the 2010 elections inclusive, free and fair, and to take necessary steps on my specific proposals in the very near future.”  Senior General Than Shwe had pledged to ensure the elections were free and fair.

Before leaving Myanmar, the Secretary-General continued, he had been able publicly to reiterate a dual twofold message in a keynote speech to a large and diverse audience in Yangon:  that, while Myanmar had a unique and complex history, the challenges it faced as a country in transition were neither exceptional nor insurmountable; and that the choice in the coming days and weeks would be for Myanmar’s leadership to meet their responsibilities or fail their own people.  “The world is now watching closely whether they will choose to act in the best interest of their country or ignore our concerns and expectations and the needs of their people.”

Myanmar’s representative responded by saying that the utmost had been done to accommodate the Secretary-General’s requests, except the one for a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi due to the Special Court’s independent jurisdiction over the matter.  The Secretary-General had discussed Myanmar’s social and economic development at length with the Prime Minister, who had noted that some States had imposed economic sanctions on the country instead of providing assistance and cooperation.  The Government intended to implement all appropriate recommendations proposed by the Secretary-General, including on such matters as amnesty for prisoners and technical assistance for the elections.

Myanmar’s acceptance of the Secretary-General’s good offices mission, as well as his two visits in just over a year, were important milestones of its cooperation with the United Nations.  His recent visit had been successful, whereas undue pressure from the outside, without full comprehension of the challenges facing the country, would not be conducive to its home-grown political process.  Myanmar posed no threat to international peace and security, therefore, no Council action was warranted.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members stressed the importance of, and expressed support for, the role that the United Nations could play through the Secretary-General’s good offices.  While disappointed that he had been unable to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, most speakers underlined the necessity of the unconditional release, not only of the Nobel Peace Laureate, but also of all other political prisoners in order to make the process leading to the 2010 elections free, transparent and participatory.

However, some speakers said the Secretary-General’s failure to meet with the opposition leader should not be the only criterion by which the success of his visit should be judged.  The authorities had made gains towards the goal of a democratic society through implementation of a seven-step road map, of which the holding of general elections in 2010 would be an important step.  The country’s internal affairs should be handled by the Government, in consultation with the population and with the assistance of the international community, some speakers said, welcoming the involvement of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China’s representative described the Secretary-General’s visit as significant and that its positive outcome deserved a fair assessment by the international community, adding that it would be unfair to turn a blind eye to the progress that Myanmar had made.  As an Asian country and a neighbour, China fully understood Myanmar’s challenges, the biggest of which was development.  In addition, armed groups inside the country had not yet signed peace agreements with the Government.  National unity and reconciliation were, therefore, another big challenge.  Hopefully the international sanctions against Myanmar would be lifted, which was necessary for the creation of an enabling environment for development.  Events occurring inside Myanmar were internal matters that posed no threat to international peace and security.

The representative of the United Kingdom emphasized, however, that the visit had been an opportunity for the Government to transform its relationship with the international community, and its failure to take that opportunity only served to isolate the regime further.  Without improvement in the situation, including an acceptable outcome to the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the international community must react firmly, he stressed.

France’s representative added that that the Myanmar Government had not only done nothing to meet the Council’s demands, but it had taken decisions to counter those demands.  A genuine process of national reconciliation was a precondition of which the release of Aung San Suu Kyi was an essential part.  However, the current impasse was no reason for the international community to do nothing.  While the Council must respond firmly if she was found guilty, inaction must not be the price of a unified response.

Also making statements were the representatives of Mexico, Japan, United States, Austria, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Croatia, Turkey, Libya, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso and Uganda.

The meeting began at 11:38 a.m. and adjourned at 1:19 p.m.

Background

Meeting to consider the situation in Myanmar, the Security Council heard a briefing by the Secretary-General on his recent visit to that country.

Briefing

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, commended the Council and the Group of Friends on Myanmar for supporting his 3-4 July visit to Myanmar and his good offices in that regard.  The trip’s objective was to engage the country’s senior leadership directly on several serious and long-standing concerns which could not be left unaddressed at the current critical stage of Myanmar’s transition.  Given the attention on the ongoing trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and on the eve of Myanmar’s first election in 20 years, it was necessary to raise those concerns and extend United Nations assistance to advance national reconciliation, democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development.  “The refusal of the senior leadership to allow me to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was not only a deep disappointment, but also a major lost opportunity for Myanmar,” he said.

Allowing such a meeting would have sent a constructive, conciliatory signal inside the country and abroad, he continued.  During two meetings with Senior General Than Shwe and one meeting with the Prime Minister, General Thein Sein, there had been extensive discussions on the need for Myanmar to take meaningful steps on the five-point agenda developed in the context of the Secretary-General’s good offices, and on humanitarian issues.  He had made special proposals with a particular focus on three outstanding concerns that could undermine confidence in the political process if left unaddressed:  the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the resumption of a substantive dialogue between the Government and the opposition; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible and legitimate elections.

It was essential to address those concerns in order to ensure that the political process was inclusive and served the interest of all Myanmar’s people in a way that could be broadly accepted by the international community, he stressed, adding that he had met with registered political parties and ethnic ceasefire groups, and shared their views with the authorities.  Encouraging both groups to remain constructive in the political process, he said any successful transition would require overcoming Myanmar’s twin legacy of political deadlock and civil conflict.  It was in everyone’s interest to ensure that any gains made thus far were irreversible.  The Government was primarily obligated to address the concerns of all stakeholders, but every stakeholder had a role to play.

The Secretary-General said he had witnessed the progress made over the past year in recovery and reconstruction of cyclone-affected areas of the country, thanks to unprecedented cooperation between Myanmar, the United Nations and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  In all his meetings, he had stressed the need to consolidate and build on those efforts to ensure that assistance in the Delta was expedited and that humanitarian access was expanded to reach all vulnerable groups nationwide.  There was no justification for the Government to allow humanitarian access to some people and not others.

He said he had proposed to the senior leadership that it enhance cooperation with the United Nations to address pressing development needs through a broad-based process involving all sectors of society.  Empowering the people to participate in development was equally important for stability, democracy and prosperity, and in order to ensure that Myanmar benefited fully from and contributed to the regional and global economy.  “My visit offered the clearest signal of the United Nations’ commitment to work with the Government and people of Myanmar to address issues that are of fundamental importance for the prospects of durable peace, democracy and development,” he said.  “What is more important is not so much what I came back with, but what I left behind with the authorities.”

The Secretary-General, continued:  “I have made clear my expectation and that of the international community that the Government needs to deliver on the promise to make the 2010 elections inclusive, free and fair, and to take necessary steps on my specific proposals in the very near future.”  In that connection, Senior General Than Shwe had pledged to make the elections free and fair.  It was necessary to ensure the credibility of the process and to demonstrate concretely Myanmar’s commitment to cooperate with the international community.

Before leaving Myanmar, he said, he had had the opportunity publicly to reiterate all his messages in a keynote speech to a large and diverse audience in Yangon.  His message had been twofold.  While Myanmar had a unique and complex history, the challenges it faced as a country in transition were neither exceptional nor insurmountable.  None of the challenges facing Myanmar today ‑‑ political, humanitarian, development ‑‑ could be addressed on its own and failure to address them with equal attention could undermine prospects for durable peace, democracy and prosperity.  Myanmar was not alone.  Continued support for the Secretary-General’s good offices and encouragement ‑‑ particularly from neighbouring and ASEAN countries ‑‑ to the Myanmar authorities was even more important and necessary.

While welcoming the continuing support for his efforts from G-8 leaders and from the Group of Friends of Myanmar, he said ultimately it was the people of Myanmar who would bear the cost of any lack of engagement and cooperation by their Government with the United Nations and the international community.  That was why Myanmar’s leaders had a responsibility to their people and the international community to respond to his proposals.  The choice in the coming days and weeks would be for them to meet that responsibility or fail their own people, he said, stressing that “the world is now watching closely whether they will choose to act in the best interest of their country or ignore our concerns and expectations and the needs of their people”.

U THAN SWE (Myanmar), noting that the Secretary-General’s visit to his country had been the second in just over a year, said the utmost had been done to accommodate his requests, except the one for a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  In his meetings with Senior General Than Shwe, the Secretary-General had expressed the views of the United Nations and the international community, while the Senior General had thoroughly explained the developments of Myanmar’s political process, highlighting the Government’s two most important priorities:  to hand over State power to a civilian Government after the 2010 general elections, and to lay a foundation for future socio-economic development.  He had assured that the 2010 general elections would be free, fair and credible, and that he would arrange for participation of all citizens.

He said the Head of State had been willing to arrange a meeting between the Secretary-General and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but had not been able to do so because the Special Court had independent jurisdiction over the matter, as had been clearly explained.  Arrangements had been made for the Secretary-General to meet with leaders and representative of 10 officially registered political parties, including the National League for Democracy, and former armed groups.  On his request, a public “Thank you event” had also been arranged by the Myanmar Government.

He said the Secretary-General had discussed Myanmar’s social and economic development at length with the Prime Minister, noting that some States had imposed economic sanctions on the country instead of providing assistance and cooperation.  Regrettably, official development assistance per capita was less than $3, which was minimal compared to that of other similar countries.  The Prime Minister had stressed that such policies hindered development and had had an impact mainly at grass-roots levels.  It would be more constructive if the international community viewed the situation of Myanmar in a wider perspective.

The Government of Myanmar intended to implement all appropriate recommendations proposed by the Secretary-General he said.  It was processing amnesty granted to prisoners on humanitarian grounds, with a view to enabling them to participate in the general elections.  With regard to the National Economic Forum, the Government would cooperate with the United Nations in the agriculture, livestock and fishery sectors and on technical assistance for the elections.  The State would enact the political party registration law and election law in due time.  Myanmar’s acceptance of the Secretary-General’s good offices role, as well as his two visits in just over a year, were important milestones of cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations.  The Secretary-General’s visit had been a successful one.

Today, Myanmar was steadfastly proceeding on its chosen path to democracy, he said, adding that the challenges it faced were complex and multifaceted.  Surrounded by countries with different political systems, cultures and religions, Myanmar was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, which must be neutral and seek harmony with its neighbours for the stability of the region.  Undue pressure from the outside without full comprehension of the challenges facing the country would not be conducive to its home-grown political process.  Myanmar was making significant strides in national reconsolidation and democratization processes.  As the country was not a threat to international peace and security, no Council action was warranted.

PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) said that, by going to Burma, the Secretary-General had demonstrated the commitment of the United Nations to progress in the areas of democracy, human rights and development.  The United Kingdom welcomed the Secretary-General’s unambiguous messages on the need for political reform, which reflected the international community’s concerns.  Council statements had set out what must happen, including the release of political prisoners ‑‑ in particular Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ‑‑ and the resumption of dialogue with all political parties ‑‑ including the National Democratic Party ‑‑ and ethnic groups.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s disappointment that he had not been allowed to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, particularly at the time of a trial that was a judicial travesty, he said she had an essential role to play in establishing democracy in the country.  The Secretary-General’s visit was an opportunity for the Government to transform its relationship with the international community, and its failure to take that opportunity only served to isolate the regime further.

If there was no improvement, including an acceptable outcome to the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the international community must react firmly, he stressed, urging the regime to engage constructively to meet the international community’s concerns.  The United Kingdom remained committed to work with partners to start a reconciliation process in Burma, and supported the good offices of the Secretary-General.  The Government’s road map and the elections would have no credibility if the political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, could play no part.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said the Secretary-General’s visit had taken place at a propitious time.  It had not only enabled him to assess the status of rebuilding in the country following Cyclone Nargis, but also to assess the situation leading up to general elections in 2010.  Reconstruction efforts, made thanks to cooperation among the United Nations, ASEAN and the Government of Myanmar, through the Tripartite Core Group, as well as the donor community, must continue.  However, there were many political challenges to ensuring that the 2010 elections would be transparent and fully inclusive.  They must be aimed at facilitating a peaceful transition towards democracy and reconciliation, with a priority on strengthening the rule of law and human rights.

The elections should not only have the support of the Government, but also that of all registered political parties and any rebel groups that had shown readiness to lay down their weapons, he said.  Mexico hoped that the Government would create the conditions necessary for dialogue with ethnic minorities in order to facilitate national reconciliation.  All political prisoners must be released as soon as possible as their participation in the elections would guarantee the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.  Mexico would have preferred that Senior General Than Shwe had allowed the Secretary-General to visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who remained under house arrest.  The Government now had an opportunity to strengthen the national reconciliation process, which would allow people to enjoy their civil and political rights, consolidate peace and lay the groundwork for economic development.

Expressing concern about the constant flow of refugees from Myanmar into Thailand, he urged all regional actors to take the necessary measures to ensure that the more than 100,000 refugees would have adequate protection and shelter.  Mexico was also concerned about the situation of child soldiers, since Government efforts to address that issue thus far had been insufficient.  The Government should cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in ensuring that child soldiers were reunited with their families and reintegrated into civilian life.

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France) said that, although the Secretary-General had conveyed the expectations of the international community, the Government had unfortunately refused to cooperate and had not allowed him to visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  It had, therefore, indicated its rejection of a national reconciliation process.  The international community had shown its readiness to work constructively to support reconciliation and development with strict respect for sovereignty, but the hand that the Secretary-General had offered had been ignored.

He said the Council had set out clear and precise expectations, the first of which was the rapid release of all political prisoners.  However, their number had increased instead.  Far from initiating a dialogue with political parties and ethnic groups, the authorities had unilaterally implemented a road map which had led to increased politicization.  Not only had the Government done nothing to meet the Council’s demands, it had taken decisions to counter those demands.  A genuine process of national reconciliation was a precondition of which the release of Aung San Suu Kyi was an essential part.  However, the current impasse was no reason for the international community to do nothing.  The Council must respond firmly if she was found guilty, but inaction must not be the price of its unity.

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) stressed his country’s support for the Secretary-General’s good offices, which it had conveyed to the Government of Myanmar in close dialogues.  The Government had been implementing a road map for democratization, which was now at a crucial stage with international attention focused on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.  The Secretary-General had called for the release of political prisoners, the resumption of dialogue, the holding of elections in 2010, improvements in human rights, national reconciliation and the establishment of a National Economic Forum.  Japan was disappointed that the Secretary-General had not been able meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, but his visit as a whole had been very useful.  The Secretary-General was, after all, one of the few political leaders who could convey the concerns of the international community to the highest level of the Myanmar leadership.

He said the Secretary-General had had a full and detailed exchange of views with the leadership on the concrete steps that must be taken.  It was also significant that the Secretary-General had been able to meet with representatives of all political parties, including the National Democratic Party, and to make a public address.  Hopefully Myanmar would seriously consider all international concerns and come up with a positive response.  The Government should match words with deeds.  Regarding Aung San Suu Kyi, Japan appealed to the Government to take appropriate and lenient action.  For the international community, it was important to respond positively with concrete steps.  The Secretary-General’s good offices did not end with one visit, and Japan would continue to lend its support.

ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) expressed hope that the Burmese Government would implement all the Secretary-General’s recommendations.  While the Secretary-General had been able to meet with Senior General Than Shwe, the United States was strongly disappointed that the authorities had turned down his request to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and awaited a response to the challenges that the Secretary-General had presented.  If the authorities failed to address those challenges, they would miss a critical opportunity.  The current path led neither to democracy nor to stability, and the people would be the ones to suffer.  There could be no free and fair elections while key opposition leaders, including Ms. Suu Kyi, and more than 2,000 political prisoners languished in prison.  The authorities were clearly not respecting the popular will by putting the opposition leader on trial.

It was troubling that the authorities continued to fail to address grave human rights challenges, including the plight of refugees fleeing into Thailand she said, adding that the failure raised a red flag about the treatment of ethnic groups.  Such problems could not be resolved by plans that lacked legitimacy, which could only be achieved through a genuine dialogue, including with the opposition and all ethnic groups.  The United States recognized the crucial contribution of the Tripartite Core Group in the wake of Cyclone Nargis and called for the granting of visas to aid workers.  The Secretary-General had called for immediate Government action to avoid more wasted lives, missed opportunities and prolonged isolation.  The United States could not agree more.  The Government must understand that those around the Council table stood ready to help.  It had called cooperation with the United Nations a cornerstone of its foreign policy, and now was the time for it to match its words with deeds.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) noted with great concern that, during the past year, the human rights situation in Myanmar had deteriorated significantly.  Daw Aung Sang Sui Kyi had been detained as consequence of an alleged breach of her house arrest, which, according to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, violated international and Myanmar law.  Recent intense fighting in the east had forced thousands of civilians to flee to neighbouring States.  Such developments did not bode well for Myanmar’s plans for a peaceful transition to democracy.  The areas covered during the Secretary-General’s visit ‑‑ the release of all political prisoners, the resumption of substantive and time-bound dialogue, and the creation of an environment conducive to free and fair elections, national development and humanitarian assistance ‑‑ were of great relevance.

Expressing disappointment with the Government’s decision to deny the Secretary-General a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said the Government had missed an important opportunity to demonstrate effective cooperation and political openness.  Austria urged the Government to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and detainees.  Concerned about the high level of poverty and human suffering in Myanmar, Austria strongly commended the efforts of the Government, the United Nations and ASEAN, in the framework of the Tripartite Core Group, to respond to Cyclone Nargis, and hoped that spirit of openness would be applied to future practical issues relating to humanitarian aid, development cooperation and the proposed creation of a national economic forum.

BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam) said the Secretary-General’s visit had confirmed the role of the United Nations as a key mediator, as well as its commitment to helping the Government and people of Myanmar with a broad-based, forward-looking package.  All activities scheduled for the visit had been realized, except one.  Viet Nam regretted, but understood from the local legal perspective, the Secretary-General’s inability to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The Secretary-General’s meeting with the Tripartite Core Groups was very important as it added value to the successful cooperation between the United Nations, ASEAN and the Government of Myanmar.

He said the visit had proved to be a meaningful step in a process that was needed in order for Myanmar to become a peaceful, stable and prosperous country.  The people of Myanmar would determine their own destiny in that process, but international assistance would be effective if it was based on engagement and cooperation with the Government and people, as had been the case in the context of the seven-step road map towards democracy and national reconciliation.  Viet Nam supported a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of the country’s problems, which lay in poverty and economic underdevelopment.  United Nations agencies and donors should and could play a more active role in that regard.  Viet Nam also supported the Secretary-General’s good offices.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), describing the Secretary-General’s visit as timely, noted that he had met twice with the Head of State, as well as with other Government leaders and opposition representatives, including the National League for Democracy.  He had also visited regions affected by Cyclone Nargis and been allowed to speak publicly.  Although he had hoped to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the fact that he had not been able to do so should not be the only criterion for judging the visit.  He had conveyed the importance of democracy and reaffirmed the international community’s readiness to provide assistance.

He said the good offices mission was a process, noting that many of the issues concerned could not be resolved immediately.  The Russian Federation counted in that regard on the constructive efforts of Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser.  Myanmar was preparing for general elections, which was the latest stage in implementing its road map towards democracy.  Assurances had been given that all political parties could participate in the elections.  Grateful for the Secretary-General’s personal role in the good offices mission, the Russian Federation would continue to provide that mission with the necessary assistance.

RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said he was particularly interested to learn about the impressions that the Secretary-General had drawn from his meeting with ethnic minority groups, and about the status of humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in the Delta since his first visit since Cyclone Nargis.  Croatia was encouraged by the good cooperation involving the Government of Myanmar, the United Nations and ASEAN in that regard, but was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the country.  Given the complexity of the political situation, that was further complicated by the ongoing trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Secretary-General’s visit also served an important purpose in laying out a vision for Myanmar, he said, adding that it showed that the Government had a choice on how to proceed.  Croatia regretted deeply that the leadership had chosen not to use the unique opportunity of the Secretary-General’s visit to work towards reform, and strongly urged the authorities to use his good offices mission and to cooperate by releasing all political prisoners, resuming the dialogue and reconciliation process, and creating the conditions for free and fair elections.

LIU ZHENMIN (China) noted that some media and certain countries were not happy that the Secretary-General had not met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but the Secretary-General had met with many other people.  Meeting with her as well should not be used as a criterion for assessing the success of his visit.  General Than Shwe had not made arrangements for the Secretary-General to meet with her and the United Nations must respect that decision by a Member State.  During his visit, the Secretary-General had held in-depth dialogues with top leaders and that would play an important role in encouraging the democratic process.  He had also had extensive contacts with other groups.

The Secretary-General’s visit had been significant and its positive outcome deserved to be assessed fairly by the international community, he said, noting that Myanmar would soon hold its first general election in 20 years.  That would not have been possible without the Secretary-General’s good offices.  It would be unfair to turn a blind eye to the progress Myanmar had made.  The international community should make a balanced assessment.  As an Asian country and a neighbour, China fully understood Myanmar’s challenges.  A least developed country, it was self-sufficient in agriculture, but most of its people were yet to reap the benefits of industrialization.  Development was the country’s biggest challenge.  Armed groups inside the country had not yet signed peace agreements with the Government.  National unity and reconciliation were, therefore, its biggest challenge.

It was obvious that Myanmar’s problems could not be addressed in a Western manner, he said, expressing hope that the Government would steadily reform and lead its people towards economic prosperity, and that the international community would fairly assess the country’s challenges.  China hoped the international sanctions against Myanmar would be lifted, which was necessary for the creation of an enabling environment for development.  Events occurring inside Myanmar were internal affairs that should be handled by the Government, as they posed no threat to international peace and security.  China was against isolating and sanctioning Myanmar and its position in that regard remained unchanged.  It was to be hoped that ASEAN and other countries in the region would work together to help Myanmar address its difficulties.

FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) welcomed some positive developments in the political and economic domains, including the ceasefire agreements with armed groups and the facilitation of external trade and investment.  However, there was a need for more substantive and tangible progress on the protection of human rights and political freedoms.  The 2010 elections would be a critical test, and ought to be free and fair.  All political parties should be allowed to campaign for and participate freely in those elections.  The Government should also establish the necessary conditions for national reconciliation.

He said it was unfortunate that, as a leading opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi had spent 13 years under house arrest, adding that her trial raised important question marks yet again.  The Government’s refusal to allow the Secretary-General to visit her was not a welcome development and it was high time it heeded the repeated appeals of the Council and released all political prisoners, which was essential for the establishment of a political environment conducive to dialogue, conciliation and mutual respect.  Turkey hoped all parties would seize the historic opportunity presented by the 2010 elections to embark upon an irreversible track towards national reconciliation and peace.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya), while expressing disappointment that the Secretary-General had not been able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, said he understood the Government’s views.  The Secretary-General’s good offices efforts had nevertheless led to real and positive developments.  The Government had promised to move forward, among other things, on the commitment to continue its seven-step road map and to announce, at the right time, the date for the 2010 elections.  There was a need to continue dialogue with the Government in order to urge the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and a resumption of dialogue with political parties, including the National League for Democracy, while respecting human rights.  Coordination between the United Nations and ASEAN was important in order to bring about tangible results.

He said his country had always stressed that the internal affairs of States must be dealt with through constructive dialogue between the Government and other parties concerned, with the assistance of the international community.  Libya commended in that regard the role undertaken by ASEAN and affirmed its support for the Secretary-General’s good offices mission.  Hopefully Myanmar would soon achieve democracy, development and national reconciliation.  The country’s future was in the hand of its people alone and all should work together to ensure that that future would be a prosperous one.

JORGE URBINA (Costa Rica) expressed displeasure over the behaviour of the Myanmar Government, saying it was disturbing that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was on trial while the number of political prisoners remained consistently high.  There was need for a gradual change from a policy of sanctions and isolation towards a model of greater cooperation and opportunity that would lead to inclusive dialogue, reconciliation and democracy.  That change required the Government to work actively towards reform.  Lasting peace and economic development depended on participation and joint action.

Welcoming the statement by the representative of Myanmar that the Government was giving priority to a transfer of power to a civilian Government in 2010, he said the political process must respect the rights of all people and provide guarantees for everyone’s freedom.  Political repression and the denial of rights could not continue.  Costa Rica called on the Government to release all political prisoners and restore the rights of Ms. Suu Kyi.  There was an urgent need to reinvigorate the national reconciliation process, which was fundamentally important for any future economic development.  Costa Rica also stressed the need for greater access to international humanitarian assistance.

BONAVENTURE KOUDOUGOU (Burkina Faso) thanked the Secretary-General for breathing new life into the reconciliation and democratization process, and welcomed his meeting with Senior General Than Shwe and development partners.  It was regrettable, however, that it had not been possible for the Secretary-General to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said, urging the Government to release all political prisoners, establish an ongoing dialogue with all political actors and create an enabling environment for the 2010 elections.  In light of the importance of those elections, there was a need for appropriate legislation to create a competent structure to manage those elections.

He said he was encouraged by the Government’s commitment to the elections, as expressed earlier by Myanmar’s representative, and welcomed the meeting between the Council and the Tripartite Core Group regarding reconstruction in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.  Burkina Faso was encouraged by the Government’s efforts to further facilitate humanitarian access to the affected zones, and called on the Government to facilitate implementation of the national economic forum, with a focus on agriculture and development.  It was encouraging that several armed groups had chosen to observe the ceasefire, and others were encouraged to follow suit and join the political process.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, stating that elections, step five of the Government’s seven-step road map to democracy, would be an important stage as they would contribute to democratization.  The Government should ensure that the elections were free, transparent and inclusive.  Uganda called on the Government and parties to pursue dialogue and reconciliation and for the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.