Activities of Secretary-General in Myanmar, 3-4 July

6 July 2009

Activities of Secretary-General in Myanmar, 3-4 July

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Yangon from Singapore in the morning of Friday 3 July, for a two-day visit to Myanmar.

From Yangon, he travelled by air to Nay Pyi Taw, the administrative capital of Myanmar, for the first of two meetings with Senior General Than Shwe, senior members of the State Peace and Development Council and with other Government officials.

The Secretary-General described the aim of his Good Offices mission as one in which “members of the international community had wanted me to tell Myanmar’s leaders that countries stand ready to help the people of Myanmar achieve their legitimate aspirations”.

He said the two meetings had enabled him to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to the Senior General and his Government.  The Secretary-General said he had conveyed to the Senior General that the international community wants to help Myanmar to achieve democracy, national reconciliation, durable peace and sustainable development, and that he had emphasized that neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights. 

Specifically, he said he had told General Than Shwe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be released without delay and allowed to participate in the political process.  He also said he wanted to see swift resumption of dialogue with the National League for Democracy at the highest levels.  And he said he set out detailed criteria for an environment conducive for free and fair elections in 2010. 

In addition, he said he also discussed practical issues related to humanitarian assistance, especially the swift issuance of visas.  “These are all areas where I expect to see progress in the very near future”, he said.

He said he was deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe refused his request to visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  Such a visit, he said, would have been an important symbol of the Government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible.

While in Nay Pyi Taw, the Secretary-General also met with leaders of Myanmar’s registered political parties and with those armed groups that have chosen to observe a ceasefire.  He encouraged them respectively to honour their commitments to the democratic process and peace.

On Friday evening, he had a working dinner with the Prime Minister of Myanmar, Thein Sein.

On Saturday morning, the Secretary-General held a second meeting with the Senior General before departing for Kyon Da Village in the Irrawaddy Delta to see the results of recovery and reconstruction work following the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.  The Secretary-General had visited the same village just over a year ago.  He noted the improvement in the living conditions and the shelters of the villagers he had witnessed in the aftermath of the natural disaster that had wreaked havoc in the region.

Back in Yangon on Saturday afternoon, the Secretary-General held a Town Hall meeting with the United Nations staff working in Myanmar.  In a public address, the Secretary-General then spoke to an audience of diplomats, local and international non-governmental organizations, and United Nations agencies, and delivered a wide-ranging speech setting out messages for Myanmar -- on national reconciliation, human rights and democracy, humanitarian assistance and on economic progress.  (See press release SG/SM/12351.)

“The question today is this:  how much longer can Myanmar afford to wait for national reconciliation, democratic transition and full respect for human rights?” he asked.  “The cost of delay will be counted in wasted lives, lost opportunities and prolonged isolation from the international community.”

He flew to Bangkok from Yangon in the evening of Saturday 4 July.

For information media. Not an official record.