UN envoy and Japanese officials urge Myanmar to begin talks with opposition

26 October 2007In Tokyo today, the United Nations Special Envoy for Myanmar joined senior Japanese officials in calling on authorities in the South-East Asian nation to begin a genuine dialogue with the opposition to resolve the ongoing crisis there. “The Government and the opposition must sit down together and discuss the future of their country,” Ibrahim Gambari told reporters in the Japanese capital, the current stop on a six-nation tour of Myanmar’s regional partners. While in Tokyo, the Special Envoy held meetings with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, Vice-Foreign Minister Osamu Uno, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka. They discussed the need for the Myanmar Government to seize the current window of opportunity generated by the recent crisis to start dialogue with the opposition without delay and pursue an inclusive process of national reconciliation, according to a UN spokesperson.They also discussed Japan’s readiness to contribute to international efforts to assist Myanmar in meeting the humanitarian and socio-economic needs of its people as the country takes concrete steps to accelerate its transition to democracy. Prior to arriving in Japan, Mr. Gambari met with officials in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and China. He is expected to return to Myanmar in the first week of November, his second visit to the country since Government forces began using force to respond to peaceful protesters in August.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who dispatched his Special Envoy to consult with regional leaders on Myanmar, has also called on the Government to “seize the opportunity to take bold actions towards democratization and respect for human rights.”“Unless the Government decides to open up and broaden the process that is to define Myanmar’s future, the demands for greater inclusiveness, participation and transparency in order to accelerate the transition to democracy and civilian rule are likely to continue,” he says in a report released today on the human rights situation in the country. The Secretary-General adds that recent events constituted a “serious setback” for the country, as the Government’s repressive response to the demonstrations comes at a time when Myanmar is striving to move forward towards national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy.Mr. Ban remains deeply concerned about reports of continued human rights violations, particularly the excessive use of force and arbitrary detentions in the wake of the demonstrations, and the large number of individuals arrested without due process, according to the report.The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the situation of human rights defenders has also expressed her concerns about the ongoing situation in Myanmar, calling it “the most glaring illustration of the suppression of the freedom to protest.”“Exercise of the right to protest plays an important role both for the promotion and the protection of human rights,” Hina Jilani told the General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, known as the Third Committee, yesterday.“Where States have enabled the realization of this right, values of democracy, pluralism and tolerance have gained support,” she added.In addition, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, will make an official visit to the country to look into recent events there.

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