UN Chief Begins Talks with Burmese Military Rulers

RANGOON (RPRN) 7/03/2009–U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Burma to press the ruling military government to release all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Mr. Ban flew to the remote administrative capital of Naypyitaw, shortly after his arrival in the main city of Rangoon, for talks with Senior General Than Shwe.

In a statement before their talks, Mr. Ban praised Than Shwe’s commitment to move his country forward. Mr. Ban added that he is prepared to work with Than Shwe in the interest of peace and prosperity.

Earlier in Rangoon, Mr. Ban acknowledged that getting Burma to release all political prisoners was going to be “a very tough mission”

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial was set to resume after numerous delays. But the court hearing the case issued another postponement, this time until July 10.

The Nobel laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest and is facing a five-year prison term.

Her lawyer, Nyan Win, says the judge postponed Friday’s hearing because the Supreme Court did not send the case files to the lower court.

The international community has condemned the trial as a sham intended to keep her in prison through next year’s election.

Mr. Ban says he will seek a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as leaders of Burma’s other political parties.

He said he would also urge the country’s ruling military leaders to include all parties in the political process ahead of the 2010 elections.

Observers say Ban Ki-moon is risking certain damage to his prestige if he fails to secure the release of the Nobel Peace laureate and the other political prisoners. He has been criticized for his quiet, low-key style of diplomacy.

Human Rights Watch warned Thursday that Burma’s military leaders could use the U.N. chief’s visit to legitimize next year’s elections.

But Mr. Ban has already had some success in dealing with the military junta. He convinced them to accept international aid in the wake of Cyclone Nargis last year. 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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