United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon is meeting with Burma's top military ruler, General Than Shwe. He is
urging the general to release political prisoners, including opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi.
Mr. Ban met Friday with General Than Shwe to push for
the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners.
Mr. Ban told
journalists before arriving in Burma that he would ask to meet with opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi and urge General Than Shwe to release her.
is going to be, I know, a very difficult mission," he said. "I know that to
bring changes … we need to do our best."
In the past two years, Burma's
military government has almost doubled the number of people locked up for
opposing military rule.
Benjamin Zawacki, a Burma researcher in Bangkok
for Amnesty International, says they face harsh conditions.
political prisoners, torture is endemic, the food is below standard and medical
care is extraordinarily limited," he said. "There has been, I believe, 41
political prisoners if I'm not mistaken, who have died in the prison system
essentially as a result of poor medical conditions, poor medical treatment,
Rights groups have warned the U.N. chief's visit could be used by
the military as propaganda.
Zawacki says Burma's military rulers,
officially called the State Peace and Development Council, are well-versed in
"I think Ban Ki-moon needs to be quite careful in his
visit. But, I do think if he focuses on his agenda and sends a very clear
signal, then the ball is in the court of the SPDC to respond or not to respond
adequately," said Zawacki.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy party won Burma's last elections in 1990. But the military refused
them power and has locked the democracy icon in her house for most of the time
They are now seeking to put her in jail for up to five years for
allowing an uninvited man who snuck into her house to stay without official
On Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi's trial was delayed for a week.
It has been internationally condemned as an excuse to keep her locked up through
next year's elections.