Bangkok, Thailand

04 July 2009

Press encounter following departure from Myanmar

SG: Good evening. Thank you for coming to meet me at this late hour of the day.

As you know, I have just come from a two-day visit to Myanmar. I met twice the Senior General Than Shwe, and I had discussions with other government officials.

I also met with leaders of Myanmar's registered political parties and with those former armed groups that have chosen to observe a cease-fire.

This morning I also had time to visit Kyon Da Village in the Irrawaddy Delta to see the results of recovery and reconstruction work.

Let me first address my meetings with Senior General Than Shwe.

As you know by now, I asked to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

I am deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe refused my request. Allowing a visit to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 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.

I believe the Government of Myanmar failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness.

Nonetheless, my visit has enabled me to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to Senior General Than Shwe and his Government.

My meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, however, should not be seen as the only benchmark for success or failure of my visit. Because I believe that there are many more fundamental issues which we addressed, during the visit, which [will] help move Myanmar forward.

The members of the international community wanted me to tell Myanmar's leaders that the international community stands ready to help the people of Myanmar achieve their legitimate aspirations.

This is why I went to Myanmar, and this is what we did.

I told Senior General Than Shwe that the international community wants to help Myanmar to achieve democracy, national reconciliation, durable peace and sustainable development.

And I emphasized that neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights.

I outlined my proposals for progress.

I told Senior General Than Shwe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be released without delay and allowed to participate freely in the political process.

I said I wanted to see resumption of substantive and time-bound dialogue between the Government and Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy at the higher level of engagement.

I set out detailed criteria for a conducive environment for free and fair elections in 2010. Only then will the elections be seen as credible and legitimate.

I have urged them to publish as soon as possible the electoral law and establish an electoral commission and set a date or month for the election in 2010. I discussed the establishment of a broad-based national economic forum to address Myanmar's development needs.

I also discussed the practical issues related to humanitarian assistance, especially the swift issuance of visas.

I discussed, as well, the expansion of humanitarian assistance beyond the Delta area.

These are all areas where I expect the Myanmar Government to demonstrate progress in the very near future.

Finally, before I left for the airport, I spoke to an audience of Myanmar senior Government officials, diplomats, local and international non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies. It was a huge gathering. I delivered a wide-ranging speech setting out my messages for Myanmar –on national reconciliation, human rights and democracy, on humanitarian assistance and on economic progress.

Today, before I came here, I had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Thailand and I briefed him on my visit to Myanmar, and I'm going to continue to engage with the members of the Group of Friends on Myanmar. My Special Adviser Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, upon his return to New York, is going to convene the Group of Friends on Myanmar and brief the members there that we will continue to follow up with the Myanmar authorities on the progress of the issues which I have discussed with the Myanmar authorities.

I again thank you for your attention and will welcome a few questions. Thank you very much.

Q: Is it fair to say that you are coming away with nothing from this trip? It seems like you are going back to New York with absolutely no concessions from the Myanmar Government on any of the points you raised.

SG: As I said, I have laid out and conveyed the concerns exactly and correctly of the international community to the Myanmar authorities, my own views as Secretary General of the United Nations, what the international community, what the United Nations expects them to do as part of the democratization process, as they have committed to [in the] road map. This is what I have told them as strongly as possible, as hard as I could press. Now we have to follow up and closely monitor in close coordination with the Member States how they will implement the discussions which I had.

Q: At this time even though you showed your strong concern to the Government, your requests have all been rejected. What is your next step? What more can you do?

SG: If you use the word “reject,” I think it is only [referring to] my request to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. For all the proposals, I believe that they will seriously consider, they have not rejected any of what I proposed and therefore it would be extremely important for the international community, particularly myself and my Special Adviser, in carrying out the good offices role mandated by the General Assembly, to follow up on all the issues which I have discussed.

Q: So you met with the NLD Executive Committee. I heard you met 20 minutes in your private room can you give us any idea what you discussed with the NLD and if you can expect them to participate in the election for some odd reason?

SG: That is a part of my meeting of a group of representatives of 10 registered political parties of Myanmar. After that meeting, I had an opportunity of meeting separately those representatives of the NLD. I listened to their concerns and I explained to them what I had discussed with Senior General Than Shwe. My message to them was that all political parties may have a difference of opinion and positions. But the democratic process requires that it would be necessary for each and every one of the political parties to play their own role in a constructive way to this reconciliatory process.

And I also urged the Government leaders to protect a politically and socially conducive atmosphere, where all of these political party members could freely, actively engage in their political activities. This requires the cooperation and commitment from both sides, the Government and the political party leaders. This was my message to all the political leaders including NLD.