UN head to use Burma visit to lobby for Aung San Suu Kyi's release

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he plans to lobby the leader of Burma's military government to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi when he visits the Southeast Asian country on Friday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, arrives at the presidential palace in Singapore on Thursday with special adviser Ibrahim Gambari. ((Wong Maye-E/Associated Press))

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he plans to lobby the leader of Burma's military government to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi when he visits the Southeast Asian country on Friday.

Ban was due to arrive in the former capital, Yangon, early Friday and then fly to the country's new administrative capital of Naypyitaw for meetings with leaders.

Suu Kyi, currently on trial for allegedly violating terms of her house arrest, said Thursday she has not been informed of any plans for her to meet with Ban during his visit.

Lawyers say the trial of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been adjourned until July 10. Her lawyer, Nyan Win, says the court presiding over the trial announced the adjournment Friday just as the case was set to resume after a monthlong delay.

Ban told reporters travelling with him late Thursday that his talks would focus on gaining the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, the resumption of dialogue between the military government and its opposition, and creating conditions for credible elections.

He will meet with top junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein.

"This is going to be, I know, a very difficult mission," Ban told reporters while en route to Burma, also known as Myanmar. "But at the same time, I know that to bring changes to Myanmar, political conciliation and democratization, we need to do our best."

He said he would "convey the concerns of the international community about the slow pace of political conciliation and democratization process."

"First of all, I'm going to argue for the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi," Ban said, adding that he would raise Suu Kyi's case directly with Shwe.

An activist participates in a rally demanding the immediate release of the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in front of the Burmese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea on June 26. ((Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press))

Will meet other leaders

The secretary general is also scheduled to meet leaders from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, other political parties and some ethnic minorities.

While some senior party members from the league have been informed that they will have an opportunity to meet Ban, a spokesman for the party, Nyan Win, told reporters there is "no indication" that he would meet Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi said that if they did speak, she did not intend to discuss her current trial for violating the terms of her house arrest, Win said.

Win said that Suu Kyi told her lawyers that her trial is not her priority, adding that "she's interested only in national reconciliation."

He added: "The UN secretary general ought to meet ... Aung San Suu Kyi in order to resolve Myanmar's political problems."

Suu Kyi, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is being held in Insein prison while her trial is underway. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to five years in prison.

She was charged after an uninvited visitor, 53-year-old American John W. Yettaw, swam secretly to her lakeside house in May and stayed for two days.

In Japan on Tuesday, Ban reiterated his call for the junta to free Suu Kyi and all of the country's estimated 2,100 political prisoners.