Tuesday, December 11, 2007

UN warns Burma that World's patience wearing thin


World's patience wearing thin: UN

Situation is not acceptable and unsustainable, Ban Ki-Moon warns Rangoon

Visiting United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the Burmese junta to move forward on democracy and human rights protection as the international community's patience was running out.

"I would like again to emphasis that the return to the status quo is not acceptable and is politically unsustainable," he told a press conference.

He did not say what would happen if the international community did lose patience but noted the junta should allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to engage with the senior junta leaders.

The UN secretary-general arrived in Bangkok on Sunday for a three-day official visit to honour His Majesty the King's 80th birthday. He discussed the situation in Burma with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont during a bilateral meeting.

The UN, through special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, has made little progress in persuading the junta leaders to hold political dialogue with Suu Kyi, Ban said.

However, the junta's appointment of deputy labour minister Aung Kyi as a liaison minister between Suu Kyi and the authorities was regarded as "a good start", he said.

The military crackdown in September in Burma that killed a score of protesters raised international concerns.

The UN chief commissioned Gambari to seek solutions to end the political stalemate. He urged Asean, of which Burma is a member, to continue its role in engaging Burma's leaders and fully support the role of the UN in pushing the military-ruled country towards democracy.

But room for the regional grouping has been very slim since last month, when Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein rejected an attempt to have Gambari brief leaders of Asean and its allies on his work at a summit in Singapore and emphasised he would work with the UN only.

Surayud said Thailand would take the rotating chairmanship of Asean late next year and would have the chance to hold a summit between the UN and Asean to discuss the matter.

The UN chief said the Burmese authorities should take his warning that the world is "running out patience" seriously as the people of Burma have suffered from isolation for a long time. It was time for the military-run country to bow to the wishes of the international community for full democratisation and protection of human rights.

Yesterday was Human Rights Day, and the 59th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when the UN began the campaign to promote human rights around the world.

"Therefore, again I urge the Myanmar [Burma] authorities to fully respect the principles and all of the UN charters by fully engaging with the international community and by restoring full democracy and promoting human rights," Ban said.

The article was published in The Nation, Bangkok

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