Ex-UN chief Ban calls for more diplomatic pressure on Myanmar’s military chiefs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he was communicating with authorities in military-ruled Myanmar as well as members of the resistance army following a surprise visit to the country last month, and called for more diplomatic pressure on the ruling generals to end the violence.

Ban did not specify the nature of those communications and declined to divulge details of his conversations with military leaders during their April meetings. He was speaking at a press conference in Seoul with other members of The Elders, a group of statesmen engaged in peacemaking and human rights initiatives around the world. .

“I am in close contact with all these people to do whatever we can to help them democratize Myanmar,” Ban said.

He said he was still communicating with authorities in Myanmar, the president of Indonesia – who holds the rotating presidency of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations – and the government of national unity in Myanmar. Myanmar, which runs an underground civil administration after the military coup in 2021 that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

In meetings with Myanmar’s military ruler, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, and other senior officials, Ban urged them to take the lead in resolving the country’s violent political crisis and release political detainees. He also called on military leaders to implement a peace plan proposed by ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, and a separate United Nations resolution to end violence between the military and pro-resistance forces. -democracy.

Ban’s visit took place at the invitation of Myanmar’s military government. He remained tight-lipped about what military leaders told him in meetings. The military government has consistently dismissed outside calls for negotiations as an attack on Myanmar’s sovereignty and branded the pro-democracy opposition as terrorists.

At the press conference, Ban said he told military leaders in April that he ‘could never accept’ their attempts to ‘avoid the argument’, but did not elaborate on their conversations. .

Some experts have expressed skepticism about Ban’s initiative, citing the lack of progress in previous attempts to restore peace.

Nay Phone Latt, spokesperson for the national unity government, told The Associated Press after Ban’s visit that international leaders should know their hands will be stained with blood when they shake hands with the leader of “the ‘terrorist army’, referring to Ban’s encounter with Min Aung Hlaing.

Ban noted that military leaders following his meetings released around 2,000 political prisoners, though they did not include Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned since 2021.

When asked if he would pursue further visits to Myanmar on behalf of the Elders, including possible meetings or contacts with the opposition NUG, Ban replied, “Anything necessary.”

As UN secretary-general, Ban visited Myanmar to urge the country’s then-ruling generals to let foreign aid and experts reach survivors of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed an estimated 134,000. people. He urged the military to embrace democracy as well. He also attended a peace conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital, in 2016, which aimed to end decades of armed conflict with ethnic minority groups.

The press conference came hours after a failed North Korean attempt to launch a military satellite into orbit sparked evacuation warnings and security unrest in South Korea and Japan.

Ban and other members of The Elders – group leader and former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Mongolian president Elbegdorj Tsakhia and former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos – criticized the launch, which Santos called a “provocation useless”.

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