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UN Envoy Calls for Burma Dialogue with Global Community

A U.N. official says Burma's military government needs to resume talks with the global community. U.N. human-rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says Burma's military government should clarify the country's political direction.

Mr. Pinheiro visited Burma on six occasions until November 2003, interviewing political prisoners and reporting on the country's human-rights record. After his last visit, he expressed skepticism over the government's reform plans, and was critical of the on-going detention of 1,300 political prisoners.

On Tuesday, attending a U.N. meeting in Bangkok, Mr. Pinheiro said the government should clarify the country's political direction, especially since the purge of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in October last year.

Before being ousted, Khin Nyunt had announced a "road map" to political reform. This included a convention to draft a new constitution, which would lead to fresh general elections. But the convention has been recessed, and is not scheduled to resume until November.

Mr. Pinheiro said the government also needed to clarify the future of political reform in the country, and of the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I think it will be in the best interests of the government to make clear what are the commitments of the authorities; the situation of the road map … dialogue with political parties… Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said. "All these issues must be clarified, and I hope the authorities will have more open dialogue with the United Nations and the international community."

Burma's military, in power since 1962, says it is still committed to a political transition, which includes the drafting of a new constitution that will eventually lead to greater political freedoms and parliamentary elections.

But Mr. Pinheiro's call for dialogue come as Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition leader of the National League for Democracy, prepares to mark her 60th birthday under house arrest. The Nobel laureate has spent much of the past decade in detention, despite pressure from the world community for her release.

News reports quoted Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon as predicting Aung San Suu Kyi would be released after the draft constitution is completed next year.

But both Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Mr. Kantathi's predecessor, Surakiart Sathirathai, wrongly predicted Aung San Suu Kyi's imminent release on several occasions in the past. Mr. Pinheiro had also been assured in November 2003 that Aung San Suu Kyi was to be freed.