Burma Campaign UK today renewed its call for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to take the lead in international efforts to free political prisoners in Burma, and persuade the dictatorship to enter into genuine high level dialogue.
Letters and postcards from 2,500 supporters of Burma Campaign UK will be sent to the UN Secretary General today.
The call comes one day after the dictatorship sent a low level official, Aung Kyi, to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung Kyi has no negotiating authority. His previous meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi led nowhere, but for a while achieved their main objective, which was to try to fool the international community that the dictatorship was willing to enter into dialogue. The dictatorship appears to be playing the same game.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the meeting, and issued yet another empty call for the release of political prisoners, while doing nothing practical to secure their release.
Despite being mandated by the UN General Assembly to work to secure dialogue between the dictatorship, the democracy movement, and ethnic representatives, for more than 18 months Ban Ki-moon has not even had a full-time envoy on Burma.
At the same time, the situation in Burma is deteriorating, with Burma’s new dictator, Thein Sein, in the process of breaking ceasefires with armed ethnic groups, as he implements Burma’s new constitution. His army has been attacking civilians, using gang-rape, slave labour, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Thein Sein has not released all political prisoners. His government denies that there even are political prisoners in Burma. Nor has he made efforts to end conflict with a nationwide ceasefire, instead he has increased conflict.
“Even though Burma is sliding into increased civil war, and political prisoners suffer in jail, Ban Ki-moon is not taking action,” said Aung Gyi, a former political prisoner who is Senior Advisor to Burma Campaign UK. “Ban Ki-moon should immediately appoint a new envoy on Burma. The envoy should prepare the ground for a major initiative by Ban Ki-moon to mobilise the international community to support a new UN led dialogue initiative. The release of all political prisoners and a nationwide ceasefire should be the top priorities.”
In the absence of UN leadership, many different countries and regional groupings have started their own low-level dialogue initiatives. This lack of coordinated international pressure plays into the hands of the dictatorship, allowing them to play countries off against each other, and avoid any real pressure.
“Ban Ki-moon must face the fact that Thein Sein will not bring change to Burma,” said Aung Gyi. “Ban Ki-moon must restart UN efforts to promote real dialogue.”