Accessibility links

Rights Group: Burmese Generals Could Exploit UN Visit

Human Rights Watch has warned that Burma's military leaders could use an upcoming visit by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to legitimize elections planned for 2010.

The New York-based group's director, Kenneth Roth, said in a statement Wednesday that Mr. Ban should speak out if Burma does not commit to reforms.

Human Rights Watch said in the statement that recent U.N. efforts to mediate between Burma's military government and its political opponents have failed to produce any concrete results.

But Roth said it is time for Burma to stop stalling and playing games. He said Mr. Ban has offered Burma a roadmap to end its international isolation.

The statement was released the same day that the U.N. chief met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo. After the meeting, Mr. Ban restated the goals for his two-day visit to Burma, which will begin Friday.

Mr. Ban called on Burma to release political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose trial is scheduled to resume the day of the U.N. chief's arrival.

The U.N. secretary-general said he also will press Burmese leaders to resume dialogue with opposition groups, and to provide for credible elections in 2010.

Mr. Ban is scheduled to meet with Burma's top general, Than Shwe.

It is not clear whether the U.N. chief will be able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi during his two-day visit.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is on trial in a Rangoon prison on charges of violating her house arrest by letting an uninvited American stay overnight after he swam to her home last month.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest. If convicted, she faces five years in prison.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.