Sat, Jul 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Myanmar stalls on Ban request to see Aung San Suu Kyi

REUTERS , NAYPYIDAW, MYANMAR

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had a rare meeting with Myanmar junta supremo Than Shwe yesterday but left with no clear answer to his request to see detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spearheaded the campaign for democracy for two decades in the former Burma, is currently on trial for breaching a security law, which critics say is an attempt by the generals to keep her out of multiparty elections to be held next year.

“He told me that she is on trial. I told him that I wanted to meet her in person,” Ban told reporters after a meeting with the junta leader lasting nearly two hours in the country’s remote new capital, Naypyidaw.

“I am awaiting ... their consideration and reply,” Ban said.

Ban had made no secret of his intention to ask for permission to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during his two-day trip, which critics say has been orchestrated by the junta to try to legitimize the Nobel laureate’s trial.

Ban called for the release of all political prisoners ahead of the election and meaningful dialogue between the junta and opposition parties.

“This election should be credible, fair and inclusive, and a legitimate one,” Ban said. “I was assured that Myanmar’s authorities will make sure that this election will be held in a fair and free and transparent manner.”

Earlier, Than Shwe, 76, dressed in khaki uniform adorned with medals, was commended by Ban for his contributions to peace, prosperity and democracy.

“I would like to help move your country forward and appreciate your commitment to moving your country forward,” Ban told the general, who has led the Myanmar regime for 17 of its 47 years in power.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial was adjourned earlier yesterday because of a clerical error by the court, her lawyer said.

The stakes are high for Ban and the risk of failure great.

Halfway through a five-year term at the helm of the UN, he has faced criticism from detractors who say his low-key approach to the job does not work. He is eager to prove them wrong, UN diplomats say.

Speaking to reporters before the visit, Ban made clear he was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to persuade the military junta to free prisoners and take concrete steps towards democracy ahead of the elections.

“I’ll do my best [but] I do not believe my visit should be a make-or-break event ... This will be a very difficult mission,” he said.

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