Press Conference by Secretary-Generalís Special Adviser on Myanmar, 24 February 2012

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

Dramatic positive changes in Myanmar had demonstrated “an unprecedented level of initiative”, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on that country, Vijay Nambiar, told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today after returning from a five-day visit.

One year after the new Government had been formed, Mr. Nambiar said, political and economic reforms, the release of political prisoners and a growing number of ceasefire agreements with local groups were key components of change.

However, Myanmar was only at the beginning of its transition, he added, noting that this was his fourth visit in the past year. While international support was needed, the onus rested on the Myanmar Government to ensure further positive developments to bring about real improvements to the lives of its people.

The first test of that commitment would be the coming by-elections in April for 48 seats in Parliament, which would test the Government’s ability to enhance the democratic process. Similar commitment was needed to further social and economic development, as well as peace and reconciliation efforts, he said.

But chances for continued progress meant that “the international community must respond robustly to people’s needs by lifting current restrictions” on the country. “The people of Myanmar will expect the international community to step up,” he added. The United Nations was currently intensifying its efforts, including helping with the first national census taken since 1983, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had suggested holding a donors’ conference later in the year to better coordinate aid and assistance.

During his visit, he said, he had met with Government interlocutors and other stakeholders, including representatives from civil society, ethnic groups and academics. The meetings had resulted in many expressions of confidence that issues associated with the coming by-elections would be addressed, he replied to a correspondent’s question.

While the Government had not requested United Nations assistance for the bi-elections, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was planning to send observers, he told reporters, and the by-elections would be closely watched from the outside to get an idea of the impartiality and fairness of the process. He also noted that the United Nations would likely be involved in assisting the 2015 national elections.

Responding to another question, he said he had not met with any military generals, but had discussed related issues with relevant groups and academics, nor had he met with members of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). He had, however, had talks with the Government Minister who dealt with that group, and he had met with the Union Peace Committee, which seemed confident that problems with KIO would be addressed.

Summing up the reasons behind the current changes, he said in response to another question, the Government’s commitment, seen in the signing of key ceasefire agreements and meetings with stakeholder groups, was among the key factors.

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