UN official sees historic opportunity in Myanmar

Vijay Nambiar said the UN was encouraged by "steps taken in recent months to advance the reform agenda led by President Thein Sein.

Updated: Nov 04, 2011, 22:27 PM IST

Yangon: Tentative steps towards reform by
Myanmar`s army-backed regime offered "a historic opportunity"
for change, a senior United Nations official said on Friday at the
end of a five-day visit to the country.

Vijay Nambiar, special advisor to Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon, said the UN was encouraged by "steps taken in
recent months to advance the reform agenda led by President
Thein Sein, as well as the significant efforts... to advance
national dialogue and reconciliation".

"If sustained, these and other efforts offer a
historic opportunity to set the country on a course than can
fulfil the promises made to the people of Myanmar," Nambiar
said in a statement after meeting with top government members
and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The repressive state has surprised observers recently
by reaching out to opponents and defying ally China by
freezing work on an unpopular mega dam.

But Nambiar urged the regime to go further, most
notably by releasing all of the nation`s roughly 2,000
political prisoners, after a recent amnesty failed to free
most key dissidents.

The UN official, on his third trip to the country
since last year`s November election put a nominally civilian
administration in place, also called for international
"encouragement and support" of Myanmar`s "transition".

Nambiar`s visit coincided with a trip to Myanmar by
two senior US diplomats, according to a Myanmar government

Derek Mitchell, the new US coordinator for policy on
Myanmar, and assistant secretary of state for democracy, human
rights and labour Michael Posner began their four-day trip on

It was the third visit by Mitchell since September,
underscoring renewed diplomatic efforts by Washington to
encourage reforms in the authoritarian state, the subject of
wide-ranging US sanctions.

Earlier this month, the UN`s rights envoy to Myanmar,
Tomas Ojea Quintana, said in a report to the UN General
Assembly that serious human rights violations persisted in
Myanmar despite the recent prisoner amnesty.

Quintana said while progress had been made on the
human rights front in past months, he noted that ahead of
by-elections expected by year`s end, "there should be no
prisoners of conscience remaining in detention."