Sunday, October 29, 2023

Ban Ki-moon’s Surprise Trip to Myanmar


Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made a surprise visit to Myanmar on behalf of The Elders, a group of elder statesmen that engages in peacemaking and human rights initiatives around the world. The announcement of Ban’s arrival in the capital, Naypyidaw, was made by state television MRTV on Sunday night. He was greeted by the deputy ministers for defence and foreign affairs upon arrival with a small delegation. Ban is the deputy chair of The Elders, which was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and comprises mostly retired world leaders.

The South Korean embassy official stated that Ban’s visit was entirely scheduled by The Elders, and they were not involved in the process. It is not an official visit, and it is likely to be a two-day visit. The Elders have not yet released any details about the visit. Major-General Zaw Min Tun, the military government’s spokesperson, told the BBC Burmese-language service that Ban met with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s top leader, on Monday morning to exchange views on the situation in the country.

Ban also met with former President Thein Sein in a separate meeting but did not meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned since her elected government was removed by the army in February 2021. According to BBC reports, Ban departed Myanmar after the meetings. When he was the UN chief, Ban had met then-President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.

No details have been released about the talks, but they appeared certain to have dealt with Myanmar’s ongoing political crisis. Myanmar has been plagued by violent unrest since the army removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021. The takeover prevented her National League for Democracy party from beginning a second term in office. The army’s seizure of power was met with strong public opposition, which security forces quashed with deadly force and has since turned into widespread armed resistance.

Efforts to mediate peace from outside parties have been unsuccessful, even when coming from parties sympathetic to the military government, such as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The government decries most pressure to negotiate as infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty and generally describes most of the pro-democracy opposition as terrorists.

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