Ex-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on surprise Myanmar trip

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News Desk

Former U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has made a surprise visit to military-run Myanmar on behalf of a group of elder statesmen that engages in peace-making and human rights initiatives around the world, local media and a South Korean diplomat said Monday.

The arrival of Ban, the deputy chair of The Elders, in the capital Naypyitaw was announced Sunday night by state television MRTV. It said he arrived with a small delegation, and was greeted by the deputy ministers for defense and foreign affairs.

“This visit by Mr. Ban Ki Moon was totally scheduled by The Elders. We are not engaged in this process,”” said a South Korean Embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. “This is not the official visit. It is probably a two-day visit. He will depart this evening.”

Ban is a former South Korean foreign minister. The Elders was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, and comprises mostly retired world leaders.

The Elders have not yet released any details about Ban’s visit. The military government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, told the BBC Burmese-language service, which is directed to a Myanmar audience, that Ban met the country’s top leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on Monday morning to exchange views on the situation in the country.

Ban also met former President Thein Sein in a separate meeting, but didn’t meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned since her elected government was ousted by the army in February 2021, BBC reported. It said that Ban had already departed Myanmar after the meetings.

When he was the U.N. chief, Ban had met with then-President Thein Sein and also with Suu Kyi.

No details have been released about Monday’s talks, but they appeared certain to have dealt with Myanmar’s ongoing political crisis,

Myanmar has been wracked by violent unrest since the army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government. The takeover prevented Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party from beginning a second term in office.

The army’s seizure of power was met with massive public opposition, which security forces quashed with deadly force and has since turned into widespread armed resistance.

Outside efforts to mediate peace have meet with no success, even when coming from parties sympathetic to the military government such as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The government decries most pressure to negotiate as infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty, and generally describes most of the pro-democracy opposition as terrorists.

Ban has a long history of involvement with Myanmar. While U.N. secretary-general from 2007 to 2016, Ban went to Myanmar to press the country’s then-ruling generals to let an unimpeded influx of 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 in 2016 that sought to end decades of armed conflict with ethnic minority groups.

Two months after the military takeover, Ban urged the U.N. Security Council and Southeast Asian countries to take swift and strong action to stop the deadly crackdown. He then tried to make a diplomatic visit to Myanmar, aiming to meet with all parties to try to de-escalate the conflict and foster dialogue, but he was told by Myanmar’s authorities that it was inconvenient at that time.

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