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

Ban Ki-moon visits military-run Myanmar on behalf of a group of former leaders that engage in peacemaking.

Ban Ki-moon and Min Aung Hlaing at their meeting in Naypyidaw. They are seated on carved, gilded chairs with three golden coffee tables between them. Min Aung Hlaing is wearing traditional Burmese dress. Ban in in a suit. They look serious.
Ban apparently travelled to Myanmar after being invited by the military [Military True News Information Team via AP]

Former United Nations 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 peacemaking and human rights initiatives around the world, local media and a South Korean diplomat said.

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

He later met coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in the capital.

“This visit by Mr Ban Ki-moon was totally scheduled by The Elders. We are not engaged in this process,” a South Korean embassy official told the Associated Press news agency on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

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

The group has not yet released any details about the visit.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar carried a report of Ban’s meeting with Min Aung Hlaing, describing the discussions as cordial. The two men were pictured sitting in gilded chairs with three small golden tables between them. A separate report said Ban left Myanmar by air on Monday evening.

Separately, Ban met former President Thein Sein, who led a quasi-civilian government, but he did not see elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been jailed since the generals seized power in February 2021.

When he was the UN chief, Ban met then-President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Little detail has been released about the talks, but they appeared certain to have dealt with Myanmar’s ongoing political crisis.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which took place the day Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party was to begin a second term in office following a landslide election victory.

The army’s power grab led to mass protests, which have since evolved into widespread armed resistance.

Outside efforts to mediate peace, currently led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with which the military agreed a five-point plan to end the violence in April 2021, have been unsuccessful.

The military describes most of those opposed to its rule as “terrorists” and has detained thousands of opponents.

It has promised new elections, probably this year, but the NLD and other parties have already been banned after it failed to re-register under a new election law drawn up by the generals.  Critics say the poll is unlikely to be free or fair.

In Yangon over the weekend, an anti-coup group shot dead a senior election official.

Source: Al Jazeera, The Associated Press