Annan asks junta to let Suu Kyi be part of statute-making

Associated Press

Jakarta, April 23:

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan today urged the leader of Myanmar’s military government to allow detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party to take part in formulating a new constitution for the troubled Southeast Asian nation. Annan said he met Myanmar’s Gen Than Shwe on the sidelines of the summit of leaders of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta and urged him to speed up the democratization process. The junta, which seized power in 1988, has shown no sign of releasing Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Approaching her 60th birthday, Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for a year and barred from contact with independent observers. Her National League for Democracy party has refused to participate in discussions about a new constitution until she is released — a demand ignored by the ruling junta.

Critics also call the ongoing constitution-drafting convention in Myanmar a sham. “I did raise the question of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, and the fact that it is important that all citizens are able to participate in the constitutional process in the national discussions,” Annan said. “I think Than Shwe listened to me, he got my message and I hope he will go back to think about it and do something about the message I gave him,” Annan added. The military regime has in the past ignored foreign appeals for Suu Kyi’s release. Pressure has also been mounting for Myanmar, also known as Burma, to forego the chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations unless it speeds up democratic reform and improves its human rights record. Myanmar is due to take over the rotating chairmanship from Laos toward the end of 2006. The United States and the European Union have threatened to boycott ASEAN meetings and stall ASEAN development funding if Myanmar becomes the grouping’s chair.