Democracy: At Myanmar’s doorsteps?


United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Monday said that an amnesty announced by the government of Myanmar, which reportedly includes some 23 political prisoners, as a “first step” toward release of all such detainees and further progress on democratization.

“This is the time for Myanmar to seize the opportunity before it to send positive signals,” he said following a meeting with his “Group of Friends” on Myanmar, which includes neighboring countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other concerned States.

Citing further steps to be taken, Mr. Ban reiterated his call for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners still in detention, including opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the resumption of dialogue between the Government and the opposition “without delay and without preconditions.”

According to the UN, Monday’s meeting follows a briefing last week in which Mr. Ban’s special advisor, Ibrahim Gambari, told the Security Council that there was some movement toward “tangible outcomes” from his January 31 to February 3 visit to Myanmar as part of the secretary-general’s good offices mandate.

After being updated Mr. Gambari, the “Group of Friends” expressed its unified support for the continuation of the good offices efforts, Mr. Ban said, adding that “our Myanmar interlocutors have also indicated the importance they attach to the good offices’ work.”

UN added that the special adviser is prepared to extend the UN’s political facilitation with both the government and the opposition to build on previous efforts.

Asked whether he himself is considering another visit to the South-East Asian nation, the secretary-general replied that he will try to go, but nothing yet has been discussed in terms of timing and agendas. “As a matter of principle, I am telling you that I am willing to make a return visit to build upon what I had discussed last May, including political issues,” he said, adding that there would not have to be preconditions for his visit.

“This is a part of ongoing consultation and negotiations and efforts by the international community, and also entrusted to me by the General Assembly,” Mr. Ban explained.

In regard to further discussions with the “Group of Friends,” he added: “We have a unity of support. But at the same time I would like to see some unity of approaches among members. This is what we are now continuing to consult with the countries concerned.”