Former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has urged an end to the violence that has rocked Myanmar since the February 2021 coup, and renewed efforts to secure lasting peace and a legitimate government.
Ban, who is part of The Elders advisory group of former world leaders, made his comments in a statement following a visit to the country at the invitation of the military.
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“I came to Myanmar to urge the military to adopt an immediate cessation of violence, and start constructive dialogue among all parties concerned,” Ban said in a statement on Tuesday, stressing that the National Unity Government (NUG) set up by elected politicians removed in the coup and pro-democracy activists, had to be part of any discussion.
The generals characterise all their opponents as “terrorists”.
“My meetings were exploratory. I will do all I can to help the people of Myanmar secure the peace, prosperity and freedom they deserve.”
Myanmar was plunged into crisis when army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power, detaining elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi just as her National League for Democracy (NLD) was about to start its second term in office after a landslide election victory.
The coup prompted mass protests and a violent military response, which led some to take up arms in a bid to restore democracy.
Ban said he had been invited to Myanmar by the military and met Min Aung Hlaing in the capital, Naypyidaw, as well as Thein Sein who was president of a quasi-civilian government between 2011 and 2016. The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar in its Tuesday edition described the discussions as cordial.
Ban’s statement did not mention any meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been jailed for at least 33 years after a series of secretive trials in which she was found guilty of corruption and other charges that critics say are politically motivated. He previously met her when he was the UN secretary-general.
During his talks with the military, Ban said he stressed the urgency of making progress on the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Five-Point Consensus and action on last December’s UN Security Council resolution which included calls for an immediate end to violence, and the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and civilian President Win Myint.
Ban’s surprise visit followed global outrage at a military air raid on a village in the Sagaing region that killed more than 160 civilians, including children, and he said he reiterated the international condemnation of the attack.
He arrived in the country following the killing of a military-appointed senior election official in Yangon by an anti-coup group.
The military, which has claimed without evidence that the last election in November 2020 was fraudulent, has promised new elections, but the NLD and other parties have already been banned after failing to reregister under a strict new election law drawn up by the generals.
Ban said elections should only be held when conditions were in place for them to be free and fair.
“Holding elections under current conditions risks further violence and division, and the results not being recognised by the people of Myanmar, ASEAN and the wider international community,” the statement warned.