October 20, 2008 / 9:17 PM / 10 years ago

U.N.'s Ban frustrated by Myanmar inaction

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced frustration on Monday that Myanmar’s military government had failed to take up proposals by the world body to bring democracy to the southeast Asian nation.

Ban has been asked by the U.N. Security Council to do his utmost to pursue reforms in Myanmar, which drew international condemnation last year for a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters led by monks.

Ban’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, last visited the former Burma in August, but failed to wring concessions from the junta or to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past five years.

In a report, Ban said “it remains a source of frustration that meaningful steps have yet to be taken by the Myanmar authorities in response to the concerns and expectations of the United Nations and the international community.”

Myanmar says it is pursuing its own seven-step “roadmap” to democracy. It announced overwhelming public support in a May referendum on an army-drafted constitution as part of a process meant to culminate in multiparty elections in 2010 and end a nearly 20-year political stalemate.

Western countries have condemned the referendum as a sham.

“It is unfortunate that specific suggestions of the United Nations to improve the credibility and inclusiveness of the political process have thus far not been taken up by the government,” Ban said in his report for the General Assembly.

The main U.N. demands, backed by the Security Council and advanced by Gambari, have been for the junta to release political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and start a serious dialogue with the opposition.

Ban said that “expectations are high that the government of Myanmar will start taking substantive action” on those proposals. It was up to the junta “to genuinely demonstrate its stated commitment to cooperating with the United Nations.”

Ban also called, however, on all countries that were interested in a solution in Myanmar to “work constructively together” in support of U.N. efforts.

Saying that only negotiated political solutions would work, he urged Myanmar’s government and opposition to find ways to talk to each other.

Earlier this month, Ban said he would drop plans to make a long talked-about visit to Myanmar unless he was confident it would achieve tangible results in promoting democracy. He made a first visit there after Cyclone Nargis in May but has said he would like to return to discuss political issues.

The United Nations has been caught between a government reluctant to budge from its path and Western nations impatient for change. U.N. officials say Gambari believes Myanmar’s leaders are only likely to favor a gradual transition from military rule on the model of Indonesia or Thailand.

Editing by David Storey

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