/ 6 December 2008

UN: World frustration with Burma is growing

International frustration with Burma’s military government is growing amid reports that the ruling junta recently jailed dozens of dissidents, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

Ban said he sensed ”not only a higher expectation but also a growing frustration that our efforts have yet to yield the results we all hope for”.

”I share this sense of expectation and frustration,” he said after meeting with representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States among others in the so-called Group of Friends on Burma.

Last month relatives of popular comedian and activist Zarganar said a secret court in Burma had sentenced him to 45 years in prison, the latest in a series of lengthy jail terms handed out to more than 100 dissidents.

Ban said the group had expressed concern at the junta’s actions and its failure to respond to previous UN demands that all political prisoners be released and the military rulers start up a dialogue with the opposition.

He urged all countries with influence on Burma to encourage the junta to heed the demands of the international community. He declined to name specific countries.

One senior Western diplomat at the meeting, who declined to be identified, said China had the most influence on Burma and several countries were disappointed Beijing was not using that to persuade Burma’s ruling generals to cooperate.

In October last year, the UN Security Council issued a non-binding statement demanding democratic reforms, including the release of political prisoners. China and Russia, both of which hold vetoes, have prevented tougher action by the council.

More than 100 former presidents and prime ministers from around the world wrote to Ban this week urging him to go to Burma to press for the release of all political prisoners, the most famous of whom is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for nearly two decades.

Ban visited Burma in May to secure entry for aid workers after the country was struck by Cyclone Nargis. He wants to return, but UN officials say he would only go if he was certain it would yield concrete results.

”I am ready to visit Burma again,” Ban said. ”[But] at this time I do not think the atmosphere is right for me to undertake my own visit there.” — Reuters