News / Asia

UN Chief: Not Too Late for Burma to Change

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) sits listening next to Myanmar's PM Thein Sein (C-Rear) at the ASEAN-U.N. summit on the sidelines of the 17th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi, 29 Oct 2010
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) sits listening next to Myanmar's PM Thein Sein (C-Rear) at the ASEAN-U.N. summit on the sidelines of the 17th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi, 29 Oct 2010

The head of the United Nations urged Burma on Friday to release all political prisoners to improve the climate ahead of national elections. His call came as Burma's top court heard an appeal from lawyers of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her house arrest.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday it is not too late for military-ruled Burma to make a "credible, democratic" transition.

"By releasing all political prisoners, the Myanmar authorities could help open the way for a national reconciliation," he said. "The period after the elections will be especially important. It is a chance for the authorities to signal that they are open to real change."

He relayed his concerns to reporters at a Southeast Asian summit in Hanoi. At the same event this week, Burma's foreign minister, Nyan Win, said the country's most prominent political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, could be released, but only after the November 7 vote.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley responded with unusually strong criticism.

"This is a craven manipulation by Burma. How convenient that they are hinting that she might be released after an election that is unlikely to be fair, free, or credible," said Crowley.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Burma's last election in 1990, but the military government refused to hand over power and has kept her in detention for much of the past two decades.

Burma's Supreme Court on Friday heard an appeal by Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers against her house arrest, which is due to end on November 13. It did not say when it would announce a verdict.
Aung San Suu Kyi's party was dissolved after it refused to register for the elections. Although splinter opposition groups are participating, observers say they do not have the political clout to make a difference.

Larry Jagan, a Bangkok-based journalist who has been covering Burma for years, says by snubbing the government's political process, the democracy leader is limiting Burma's opportunities for change.

"One of the issues has always been for Aung San Suu Kyi that she believes that she is right and that she takes the high moral ground and that if you stick to your principles, don't compromise, you will win in the end and in fact the quickest way to win is not to compromise, and I think this is perhaps a case where she ought to have considered compromise," said Jagan.

Several senior officials have left the military to contest the elections as civilian members of a pro-government party. The government calls this part of its roadmap to democracy. Critics call it a sham.

Still, some rights advocates hope the government will free Aung San Suu Kyi after the elections to improve its international standing.

Exiled dissident Muang Zarni is a research fellow at the London School of Economics. He told the Associated Press Television News that Burma's leaders would be taking a risk by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi, because even though the political opposition has been neutered, the 65-year-old democracy leader still has great political potential.

"As long as Aung San Suu Kyi walks the streets of the Burmese cities there's always a possibility that she will find herself in a situation where she can mobilize the public opinion against the regime. That is actually something that cannot be discounted," said Zarni.

With or without public opinion on the government's side, there are few signs Burma's leaders are ready for change. Rules governing the country's first elections in 20 years ensure that most of the seats in parliament will go to the pro-government party.

Timeline of Major Political Events in Burma:

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More