Secretary-General's opening remarks at press encounter following a meeting with the Group of Friends on Myanmar
New York, 25 March 2010This morning, I reconvened my Group of Friends on Myanmar to review developments ahead of this year's elections – the first in two decades.
This meeting follows the recent announcement by the Myanmar authorities of the laws for the country's first planned elections in 20 years.
First of all, I was very grateful for the strong support, the continuing support and commitment of the members of the Group of Friends of Myanmar. That is a great source of encouragement for us to continue our role to see the democratization of Myanmar.
Two key messages emerged from our discussions this morning:
First, the Group stressed the need for elections to be inclusive, participatory and transparent in order to advance the prospects of stability, democracy and development for all the people of Myanmar.
We encourage all parties to work in the national interest. The Government must create conditions that give all stakeholders the opportunity to participate freely in elections. This includes the release of all political prisoners – including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi -- and respect for fundamental freedoms.
I have expressed my concerns that the published electoral laws and the overall electoral environment so far do not fully measure up to what is needed for an inclusive political process.
I have taken note of the continued engagement between the government and key parties to the national reconciliation process, including the ethnic ceasefire groups and several meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Despite these efforts it is disappointing that we have not seen the progress that we had expected.
Second, the Group stressed the need to work for better standards of living for the people of Myanmar. This reflects our view that Myanmar's political, humanitarian and development challenges should be addressed in parallel and with equal attention.
I am encouraged by the commitment of all the Friends and by their continued support for my good offices and the role of the United Nations.
Myanmar faces critical short- and long-term challenges. The Group of Friends, and I personally, will continue to do our part to help all the people of Myanmar realize their aspirations.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, as you rightly said, you have the full support of the international community – all the members of the United Nations here. But you have taken several steps, several measures over the last two years, but nothing seems to have worked, at least for the people of Burma, for their political aspirations, as far as freedom of speech is concerned. Do you think it's the right time to look for other options? Explore other options, other than these meetings and dialogues?
SG: It's frustrating and, as I said, disappointing that we have not seen much progress. Some members of the group expressed that; how we evaluate the situation in Myanmar. When I was there and meeting with the Senior General, I have been, I urged him to take concrete actions and he made several commitments. I think this implementation of commitment seems to come very slowly and gradually. One of the commitments was publishing the electoral laws, but the date has not yet been announced, and the release of political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - still we are urging them to do that. It's frustrating to all of us and we will continue to realise that full democratisation, so that people of Myanmar can enjoy genuine freedom and genuine democracy. That is our commitment, and we will see.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said, she has actually encouraged the NLD not to register for the polls under the current laws. I wonder what do you think can happen between now and when a date is set. Would you view that as a fatal flaw to the election, if the NLD didn't participate? And are you thinking of naming a more permanent successor to Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari to carry out the good offices? Some say that having an interim person may either reflect or be interpreted as a lack of commitment on the issue.
SG: If what she said is based on her genuine belief, based on the current situations then we have to respect her decision. I'm not quite sure what the surrounding circumstances were as she made that statement. However, she is the leader of her party and when she said such decision then I think that should be respected. That depends upon how people will decide on that. As a matter of principle, as I have said repeatedly, publicly and privately to the Myanmar leadership, that this election should be fully open, transparent, inclusive and participatory and credible, and I told the Myanmar leadership that without full participation of all the people, including political prisoners, and particularly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it may not be regarded as credible and inclusive. Therefore all the process and development, we have to carefully monitor. And about the appointment of Mr. Gambari's position: at this time I have designated my Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Vijay Nambiar as ad interim Special Advisor until such time when I will be able to find a Special Advisor for that post.
Q: There was at least one report that you proposed a name to Myanmar and they turned it down. Maybe the report was wrong?
SG: No. I have never proposed any names.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I want to redirect the questions to the Middle East. I understand that?
SG: I did enough yesterday. As you know I am leaving for Sirte, Libya today, and you know my commitment, and you know my plan; what I am going to do in Sirte. So I am going to have a press conference in Sirte, so why don't you ask your colleague to?
Q: One of your bodyguards was denied a visa because he is Lebanese. What's your comment?
SG: I am not informed about that. Thank you very much. Thank you.