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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Transcript of the Secretary-General's press conference following his meeting with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand [unofficial transcript]

Bangkok, Thailand, 26 October 2010

SG: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minster. Sawatdee Khrap. Ladies and gentlemen of the media:

I am pleased to be back in Thailand again. Let me express my appreciation to the Prime Minister and Government and people of Thailand for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation. And please allow me to express my most profound sympathy for the victims of the recent floods -- all those who lost their homes and livelihoods or, far worse, their dear lives. It is a stark reminder of the reality of climate change and the urgent need for action. We discussed with the Prime Minister how we can work together, particularly with Thailand and ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations], to address climate change.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Thailand for its active role as a UN Member State and for hosting a large UN family in Bangkok. Thailand and the United Nations have a long and solid partnership and I am here to strengthen it and I am very much grateful for such strong support of the Thai Government for the work of the United Nations and particularly ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific].

I had a productive meeting with Prime Minister Abhisit and other members of the Government. As the Prime Minister has outlined in a detailed manner what we have discussed, I do not have much to add. I can only say in general terms we discussed cooperation between Thailand and the United Nations and I highly commended the leadership role of Thailand as President of the Human Rights Council and Thailand's contribution to our work for development; and I appreciated Prime Minister Abhisit's own participation in the recent Millennium Development Goals Summit meeting in New York. I had again a very productive meeting earlier this month for a second time in New York, when he visited New York again.

Thailand is leading by example in environmental protection and also in peace and security, including peacekeeping. In that regard, as the Prime Minister has just said, I highly commended and appreciated such a leadership role by deploying a peacekeeping battalion, the first ever non-African battalion in Darfur, and I asked the Prime Minister that the United Nations would appreciate it if the Thailand Government would send more police officers, and particularly female police officers. That would be very important in addressing many unfortunate cases like sexual violence, and we have very successful cases in Liberia and Haiti when female police officers have been a part of the society and dealing with many women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence.

We also discussed regional issues, including Myanmar and cooperation between ASEAN and the United Nations. And the Prime Minister briefed me about his recent visit and meeting with the Myanmar leadership about the forthcoming elections and how ASEAN and the United Nations can work together to help Myanmar to further democratize and make this election a more transparent and more inclusive one by meeting the expectations of the international community.

As you know, I will be attending the ASEAN-UN summit in Hanoi in a few days' time. ASEAN and its members are important players in the effort to recover from the global economic crisis, combat climate change and promote stability and peace. Thailand has many important lessons to offer the world. The country is on track to meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals. It is deeply engaged in South-South cooperation.

I was briefed by the Prime Minister on the current situation in Thailand and the efforts currently underway towards national reconciliation and dialogue. Many of the issues that led to the recent violence and tragic loss of life can best be resolved through committed and genuine national dialogue conducted in good faith. I therefore encouraged the Prime Minister to continue with these efforts through an inclusive, broad-based process.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you again for your leadership and partnership and I look forward to working very closely with you and other leaders of the Thai Government. Khop Khun khrap.

Q: Secretary General, could you please tell me more about Myanmar elections? Actually more transparent and inclusive election is inevitable. However, the current situation doesn't ensure that way. How can the UN commit to the Myanmar elections in order to make it more free and fair? What is the UN's role? What can the UN do from now on?

SG: The United Nations, by the mandate of the General Assembly of the United Nations, has been playing a good offices role to help Myanmar to democratize and I have had meetings – at least three times – with General Than Shwe of Myanmar. Now that they are going to have the first ever elections in 20 years, and I only hope, sincerely hope, that this election will be an inclusive and transparent and credible one. That is the expectation of the international community. The more they signal through concrete actions that it is a departure from business as usual or the status quo towards more openness, the better it will be for the credibility of their country in the democratization process.

Now, the United Nations has offered a willingness to provide technical and logistical support, but I understand through my meetings with the Prime Minister and through their own communication that they do not want any outside help. In any case, the United Nations is committed to even longer-term engagement with Myanmar. It is not only Myanmar, but it also has implications in this region. It is even important for ASEAN's integration. ASEAN and Thailand are in a good position to help Myanmar's people to further democratize and further [have a] participatory process in their future. Again, I thank the Thai Government's strong support for my good offices role, and I am committed to work together for the better future of Myanmar.

Q: Secretary-General, let me return to the Burma, Myanmar situation. Apparently Myanmar failed to demonstrate that the election is free and fair and inclusive, because they don't invite foreign journalists and observers. What is the UN role for the election outcome? Are you dealing with the new government, giving the legitimacy and recognize it as a civilian government? What future role will the UN play with the new government in Myanmar?

SG: I have answered part of your question; now that they are going to have elections on 7 November. As I said, I do expect and hope that this election will be an inclusive and transparent one. It will be even more important after the election, how inclusive a government they will form as a result of the election, reflecting the will and wishes of the people. That will be a test of the Myanmar Government – how they will be able to meet the expectations of the international community. The United Nations is now committed to engage in a longer-term relationship with Myanmar and I am very much encouraged by such a strong welcome and support by ASEAN and ASEM, recently demonstrated by their summit meeting, and I will continue to exercise and to do my role of good offices.

We will really be expecting that this election will be a fair one and a credible one and an inclusive one. In that regard, it is not too late, even now, that by releasing the political detainees, they can make this election more inclusive and participatory and this election will have perception issues when this election is actually over. Therefore I would again hope that they will heed the international calls. I am going to have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Thein Sein in Hanoi on the margins of the ASEAN-UN summit meeting and I am again looking forward to having a very constructive dialogue with Prime Minister Thein Sein.

Q: I believe you have heard that civil society groups and also political groups would like to see all related UN special rapporteurs to look into the aftermath of the April/May incidents (in Bangkok). So I wonder: what's your take on this?

SG: As the Prime Minister has already answered in his opening remarks, we discussed this issue. In fact, this is a Thai issue and this should be resolved by Thais. I am encouraged that the truth and reconciliation commission has started their work, and this commission has shown openness in their work, wishing that they are ready to work with even the international community. They have sought international assistance in technical and specific matters, and I expressed my readiness to the Prime Minister that the United Nations is ready to provide any technical assistance to this commission's work.

Okay. We should learn from this incident, what has happened, and I sincerely hope that all these issues will be addressed in a transparent [way], in addressing any violation of human rights which will make your society even stronger, more participatory, in addressing your own social, political issues.