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3 July 2009

Mission Impossible: UN chief visits Myanmar

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon prepared on Thursday for a risky visit to Myanmar amid warnings that his trip will be a 'huge failure' if he fails to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, reported the AFP.

Ban is set to arrive in the military-ruled nation on Friday for a two-day visit that the UN says will focus on pressing the junta to free all political prisoners - including the opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate who is currently on trial.

He is due to meet junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and members of opposition parties including Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), but there are no plans yet for him to meet her, officials said.

The 64-year-old was transferred from house arrest to prison in May to face trial on charges of breaching the terms of her detention after an American man swam to her house. She faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore ahead of his departure, Ban said he hoped to meet the democracy leader, but had to speak to senior junta members first.

“I will try to meet with representatives of all registered political parties including Aung San Suu Kyi... But I have to raise this issue with the Senior General directly, in person.”

Ban said part of his mission was to 'convey the concerns of the international community about the slow pace of the political reconciliation and democratisation process.

“Through my meetings... I will convey exactly what the international community expects and wishes (regarding) the way they want to see changes in Myanmar.”

Human Rights Watch said Mr Ban should not accept the return of Ms Suu Kyi to house arrest, instead of imprisonment, as a sign of a successful visit.

“Time and again, the UN has politely requested Aung San Suu Kyi's release, but her 'release' back to house arrest would be a huge failure,” Kenneth Roth, New York-based HRW's executive director, said in a statement.

“Ban Ki Moon has offered Burma's generals a roadmap to ending their international isolation... He should make it clear that the time for stalling and playing games is over and that real change is needed now.”


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