UN Supports Burma’s Selection to Chair ASEAN

Posted November 19th, 2011 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. is backing the Association of Southeast Asia Nations' decision to choose Burma to be its chair in 2014.

Speaking at the East Asia Summit Saturday in Bali, Indonesia, Mr. Ban said the military-led government in Burma has long been a source of contention for the international community because of its lack of democracy and oppressive rule. But, he says the U.N. has decided to support their chairmanship because of recent developments made there, including the new civilian government's decision to release political prisoners and begin reforming their once-closed political system.

Mr. Ban announced his support for Burma following a meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein, during which he said he urged the Burmese leader to further accelerate the rate of political reform and national reconciliation.

The choice of Burma to head a regional organization that promotes peace and human rights is a controversial one. Despite the progress made in recent months, human rights organizations and western countries including the United States say the reforms need to go further.

The secretary general also said he plans on visiting the country to see for himself the democratic progress being made. U.S. President Barack Obama announced Friday that he will send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma in early December on a similar mission.

Clinton's visit to Burma will be the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years.

Since bringing in the civilian parliament in March, Burma's former military leaders have gradually been loosening their political grip on the country. One of the most significant developments has been the new government's decision to open dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country's main opposition party who had been under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years.

Her party, the National League for Democracy , decided Friday to re-register as a political party and take part in future elections. Aung San Suu Kyi is widely expected to run for office.