BANGKOK — The UN chief has welcomed pledges of reform by Myanmar's army-backed government, but said in a report released Wednesday the detention of political prisoners undermines confidence in the regime.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the new nominally-civilian government and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi after controversial November elections gave the country a chance to "embark on the path of progress".
In the report, dated August 5 but released Wednesday by the United Nations office in Yangon, Ban said commitments from new President Thein Sein, a former general, to undertake political and economic reforms were positive.
But he urged "timely implementation", stressing that the country continued to suffer from "serious, deep-seated and long-standing" human rights, political and economic problems.
"Whether the new government has the capacity, willingness and support to deliver on its reform agenda remains to be seen," he said.
Ban said the continued detention of political prisoners, who are estimated to number over 2,000 in the country, "remains of deepest concern" to the United Nations.
"The detention of all remaining political prisoners will continue to overshadow and undermine any confidence in the government's efforts," he said.
Democracy icon Suu Kyi, who has recently held talks with Thein Sein and undertaken her first political trip outside her home city of Yangon, should be allowed to continue her activities without interference, he added.
"Any restrictions on her movements or threats to her security would cause serious concern and send the wrong signal," Ban warned.
Suu Kyi was released from seven straight years of house arrest days after the election, which Ban described as "flawed and controlled". Her party boycotted the vote because of rules that appeared designed to exclude her.
UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, visited the country for the first time in more than a year last month amid signs the regime was reaching out to critics.
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