Annan calls for NLD leader's unconditional release

The United Nations envoy Razali Ismail has met with detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, amid ongoing efforts to secure her release from house arrest, RFA's Burmese service reports.

Razali is the first outsider to meet the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) following her surgery last week. No details of the meeting were immediately available.

Razali is in Burma for three days with the aim of kick-starting a stalled reconciliation process between the military junta and opposition groups.

Razali is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Khin Nyunt as well.

As he began his visit, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan renewed his call for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate and unconditional release. Her detention since May 30 meant that "the three-year-old home-grown process of national reconciliation, as understood by the United Nations, has come to a complete halt," Annan said in a report released to coincide with Razali's trip.

Annan said he believed there was "still a small window of opportunity" to save the process and urged immediate steps forward. "The people of Myanmar [Burma] have waited too long for change," he said in the report on the human rights situation in Burma.

"Unless the parties concerned are able to engage in substantive dialogue, the international community will have to conclude that the home-grown national reconciliation process no longer exists," Annan said.

Khin Nyunt promised a fresh move toward democracy with the announcement of a new "road map" last month but he specified no timetable and outlined no role for the NLD or the country's ethnic minority groups.

"I am very optimistic that Razali will be able to achieve something significant this time around, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," said Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy.

But he said that if the junta was sincere about the roadmap, he would ask Razali to insist on a complete reworking of Burma's constitution through a national convention. "It should be an entirely new national convention with the ethnic minorities genuinely represented," he said.

The NLD walked out of a similar national convention in 1995, saying it was illegitimate and unrepresentative because participants were hand-picked by the government. Razali helped set up landmark national reconciliation talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta in October 2000, but these collapsed earlier this year.

Burma's foreign minister, U Win Aung, said in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday that the junta should be given credit for its first steps in creating the road map.

"We are firmly committed to bringing about a systematic transformation of democracy," he said in a speech that made no mention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

But pro-democracy groups were highly skeptical. "The new state policy on the roadmap is a manifestation of the ruling military's intent to create and decide the country's destiny by itself and according to its own will," the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) said in a statement.

"If the ruling military really desires national reconciliation... it must implement five tasks including the unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, and all other political prisoners," said the statement from the CRPP, which was formed after the military seized power following a landslide victory for the NLD in a 1990 general election.

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested after a government-led ambush on her motorcade on May 30 in the north of the country, in which as many as 100 people died, and an unknown number of women were raped, according to eyewitness testimonies recorded for RFA's Burmese service.

Tin Oo and other senior NLD members remain in detention, and Suu Kyi's lakeside home is still under tight security.


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