NEW YORK –The U.N. special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari expressed his disappointment on Thursday in the Myanmar authorities’ slow reaction to international demands for the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and called on its neighbors to use their influence on the country’s junta.
Gambari also said he does not support the nation’s scheduled election in 2010, but rather “a serious dialogue” to make the election free and fair.
“All those who have influence on the authorities of Myanmar, including neighboring countries, including ASEAN, we are calling on them to use it to encourage the authorities to release political prisoners and Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Gambari during an interview with The Mainichi Shimbun, adding that he is “disappointed” with the response of the Myanmar government.
“It is our sincere hope that the government of Myanmar will listen to the voices of the international community. As long as political prisoners including Suu Kyi are not released, it will continue to be a problem for the regime and it will draw back progress towards democratization.”
During his last visit to Myanmar in August, Gambari failed to meet either Suu Kyi or the government’s military leader Senior General Than Shwe. Suu Kyi’s cancellation of the meeting especially raised questions about her intentions.
“She has always insisted that the U.N. must be part of the promotion of a dialogue between Aung and the government,” the envoy said. “Not seeing me was a little bit of a surprise. I have seen her on seven occasions. When I visit Myanmar the next time, I hope I will be able to see her, because she is an indispensable part of our mediation effort.”
Gambari said “the most credible speculation” on why Suu Kyi did not meet him is that she is frustrated with the pace of change in Myanmar and her continued detention by the authorites. Suu Kyi has been detained by the military government for 12 of the past 18 years since her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a general election in 1990.
After the envoy’s visit to the country, the NLD issued a statement complaining about the lack of results from Gambari’s missions. The statement also accused him of offering the U.N.’s assistance to the military government for its 2010 election plan.
“I didn’t support [the election]. I support the process leading to the possible election,” said Gambari. “We believe that between now and 2010, there should be a serious discussion between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to ensure the credibility of the process. And there is still time. Our objective is not to support a particular outcome of the election, but to ensure the process is credible and free and fair,” said Gambari.
“The government should not play games with their own people, because people are about their future. We are only there to help. We will continue to be available for serious efforts.”
The current military regime took control over the country in 1988, despite mass pro-democracy protests. The junta held a general election in 1990 and lost to Suu Kyi’s party, but refused to hand over power.