"The people of Myanmar have suffered from isolation for such a long time and it's high time now that the Myanmar authorities and the people... enjoy democracy and freedom," he said.
 

Ban's comments came after talks with Surayud Chulanont, the Thai prime minister.

 

"Our patience is running out fast"

Ban Ki-moon,
UN secretary general

He added that while the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and a human rights investigator had been allowed to visit Myanmar following the bloody crackdown on the September protests, Myanmar's rulers needed to show more progress.

 

"Our patience is running out fast," Ban told reporters.

 

"I urge Myanmar's leadership to be more pro-active in realising democratisation while fully protecting human rights and allowing Madame Aung San Suu Kyi to be engaged in a dialogue with the senior level in the leadership in Myanmar."

 

The September street protests - led initially by former student demonstrators and then by Buddhist monks - were the biggest challenge to military rule in nearly 20 years.

 

On Friday a UN report said at least 31 people were killed and 74 still missing after the crackdown, with more than 600 dissidents still in detention.

 

The number of dead is more than twice that admitted by the Myanmar authorities.

 

In an effort to ease international outrage sparked by the crackdown, Myanmar's government appointed a special liaison to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize winner who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

 

But despite three meetings between the opposition leader and the laison minister no tangible progress has been made.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in Myanmar's last free elections held in 1990, but the ruling military refused to recognise the result and held on to power.