December 10, 2007 / 7:05 PM / 12 years ago

Ban says patience running out with Myanmar

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The international community’s “patience is running out” with military-ruled Myanmar and foot-dragging over its moves towards democracy, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said on Monday.

Myanmar activists shout slogans outside the United Nations Building ahead of a speech on climate change by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Bangkok, December 10, 2007. The international community's "patience is running out" with military-ruled Myanmar and foot-dragging over its moves towards democracy, Ban Ki-Moon said. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

“I hope the Myanmar authorities will take it very seriously,” Ban said during a visit to Thailand, where he urged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the former Burma is a member, to play a “special political role.”

“The people of Myanmar have suffered from isolation for such a long time and it is high time now for the Myanmar authorities and people to be able to enjoy genuine democracy and genuine integration in the international community,” Ban said.

En route to a climate change conference in Bali, Ban said he would continue with the mission of his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to bring the generals to the negotiating table with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari has visited twice since September’s bloody crackdown against major pro-democracy protests in which the U.N. says up to 4,000 people were arrested and at least 31 killed — more than three times the junta’s official toll.

He has held meetings with Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi and junta supremo Than Shwe, although so far the only concrete result of his visits has been the appointment of another general to act as go-between for the pair.

U.S. first lady Laura Bush, an outspoken critic of the Myanmar junta’s crackdown on protesters, said on International Human Rights Day the citizens of Myanmar should be remembered.

“For nearly 20 years, Burma’s military regime has crushed peaceful dissent and jailed thousands of political prisoners,” she said in a videoconference with U.S. officials and Dr. Cynthia Maung, the founder of a clinic along the Thai-Myanmar border.

“President Bush and I call on all nations — especially Burma’s neighbours — to use their influence to help bring about a democratic transition,” Laura Bush said.

She said Myanmar’s military rulers had so far only offered “token gestures” and if they were serious, they should take steps such as releasing political prisoners.

Western governments have called on Myanmar’s neighbours — ASEAN, India and China — to put pressure on the generals, although Beijing has made it clear it will not allow the United Nations to impose multilateral sanctions.

Myanmar has been under military control since a 1962 coup. The army held elections in 1990, but refused to hand over power after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

reporting by Ed Cropley, editing by Darren Schuettler

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