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UN Envoy Backs 'Road Map' for Burma Reconciliation - 2003-08-11

The United Nations special envoy to Burma has given his support to Thailand's plan to promote political reconciliation between Burma's military government and the opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Razali Ismail's comments follow talks with Thailand's foreign minister in Bangkok.

Razali Ismail said a framework is necessary to achieve political reconciliation in Burma and Thailand's proposed "road map" should be part of the process.

The United Nations special envoy to Burma made the comments after almost two hours of talks with Thailand's foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, in Bangkok. The United Nations is working with Thailand and other countries to press Burma to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since May 30.

Bangkok's proposal calls for an international forum with the United States, Britain, China, Japan and members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Burma is a member of ASEAN.

Foreign Minister Surakiart recently spoke with his Burmese counterpart, Win Aung, about the plan. Diplomats say that so far, the proposal has received a lukewarm response from Burma's military government.

Burmese opposition groups and international human rights organizations say that since Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest, the government has effectively closed down her National League for Democracy.

The government said Aung San Suu Kyi has been isolated to prevent a breakdown in law and order. Officials said they are waiting for the political situation to cool before releasing her.

The United States, European Union and Japan have all stepped up diplomatic pressure on Rangoon to restart efforts toward political reconciliation.

ASEAN has called on Burma to release the opposition leader to prevent further international sanctions.

He said Burma could face further sanctions from the United Nations, says Aung Zaw, editor of Irrawaddy magazine, an opposition publication based in Thailand. He said it is important to have a framework for reconciliation that has support from both Burma and the international community.

"There has to be a road map, which will include ethnic minorities and [Burmese] as well as the armed forces, that will lead to national reconciliation and democracy," he said.

Thailand fears more sanctions on Burma will push thousands of economic refugees across its border. Bangkok is hoping the Burmese government will accept its road map for a democratic transition.