UN’s Ban denied Suu Kyi meeting

Author: By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters

Ban, who was made to wait overnight for the decision, said junta supremo Than
Shwe’s reason for the denial was because Suu Kyi was on trial and he did not
want to be seen to interfere with the judicial process.

“I’m deeply disappointed,” Ban told reporters after his 30-minute meeting with
the regime’s reclusive 76-year-old leader.

“I’m very sorry to report to you that this is not possible.”

Ban requested the visit during a rare meeting yesterday with Than Shwe, but he
left the two-hour session with no clear answer.

Suu Kyi, who has spearheaded the campaign for democracy for two decades in the
former Burma, is currently on trial for breaching terms of her house arrest
by allowing an American intruder to stay at her home on May 4.

Critics have dismissed her hearing as a show trial and an attempt by the
generals to keep her out of multi-party elections to be held next year.

Suu Kyi’s trial was adjourned yesterday until July 10 because of a clerical
error by the court, according to her lawyer.

The secretary-general, one of the few top world figures the Myanmar supremo is
willing to meet, also presented Than Shwe with a number of proposals to help
the development of democracy.

He said those proposals included the release of the more than 2,000 political
prisoners ahead of next year’s election, opening of real dialogue between
the government and opposition, and creating conditions conducive to free and
fair elections.

It was not immediately known if Than Shwe agreed to all of Ban’s requests.

However, yesterday Ban said Than Shwe had promised the election would not be
rigged.

“I was assured that Myanmar’s authorities will make sure that this election
will be held in a fair and free and transparent manner,” he said.

A UN official said they had urged the junta to accept international monitors.

In London, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on the Myanmar
authorities to halt Suu Kyi’s trial and release her.

“I call on the regime to mark Ban Ki-moon’s arrival by immediately halting her
trial, which makes a mockery of justice, and ending her detention which
undermines their credibility in the eyes of the world,” he said in comments
posted on the Huffington Post website.

Ban himself had described his current second visit to Myanmar as a “very tough
mission” and made clear he was not expecting radical changes overnight in a
country that has been ruled by a military junta for 47 years.

He had expressed concern his visit could be used by the ruling generals for
propaganda purposes but he decided to go anyway, hoping his knack for quiet
diplomacy would persuade the generals to compromise, as they did last year
when Ban convinced them to lift humanitarian aid restrictions after Cyclone
Nargis.

Analysts say Ban may have been given some indication by the generals, or by UN
envoy Ibrahim Gambari after his trip last week, that his visit might bring
some kind of positive result.

The secretary-general is also expected to give a speech in Yangon this
afternoon, in which he will outline his vision for a democratic Myanmar.

UN officials said they expected some 500 people would attend the speech –
among them employees of local and international non-government
organisations, diplomats, opposition politicians and government officials.

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