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UN Chief Criticizes Burma for Lack of Democratic Progress

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized the Burmese government for not following through on its promises of advancement towards democracy.

At a year-end news conference Wednesday, Mr. Ban said Burma has failed to engage in democratic dialogue and release its political prisoners.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Burma to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 13 of the past 19 years, as well as all other political prisoners.

Also Wednesday, the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said testimony from a lawyer who recently fled Burma illustrates how the government locks up and imprisons peaceful activists, and intimidates and jails lawyers.

The group said Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, a 28-year-old lawyer from Rangoon, fled to Thailand several days ago, after spending weeks in hiding. Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min said he was ordered to jail in October after he failed to intervene when his clients turned their backs on their judge in a protest.

The judge sentenced the lawyer and the clients to prison for contempt of court.

Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min learned of the charges beforehand and went underground. He and several other lawyers were representing 11 members of the opposition National League for Democracy at the trial.

Human Rights Watch says the opposition NLD members were sentenced to four to six months in prison for turning their backs on the judge.

In a crackdown that started in October, human rights groups say Burma has sentenced more than 200 dissidents to prison terms ranging from less than a year to 68 years.