UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls for ‘strength­ened’ peace process

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

THE UN sec­re­tary gen­eral stuck to a pos­i­tive tone at a tight-lipped press brief­ing yes­ter­day fol­low­ing his meet­ing with the state coun­sel­lor in Nay Pyi Taw.

Ban Ki-moon will de­liver a speech at to­day’s 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, which he called a “promis­ing first step” of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to solve Myan­mar’s decades­long armed con­flicts.

Vis­it­ing the coun­try for the fifth time, the UN chief said yes­ter­day that the peace process will need fur­ther strength­en­ing. But he con­grat­u­lated the par­tic­i­pants’ “pa­tience, de­ter­mi­na­tion and spirit of com­pro­mise”.

“The steps you have taken to­ward peace and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion will need to be fur­ther strength­ened, broad­ened and con­sol­i­dated. This is the real ex­pec­ta­tion of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” he said.

He added that the United Na­tions will con­tinue to sup­port the peace process, as it has done since the reign of the op­pres­sive mil­i­tary regime. Mr Ban said the United Na­tions has con­sis­tently backed Myan­mar’s jour­ney to­ward democ­racy and hu­man rights.

“It has been a great hon­our to work with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in par­tic­u­lar,” he said, while stand­ing along­side the state coun­sel­lor.

“To­day, I am very pleased and hon­oured to be back to wit­ness the lat­est phase in your tran­si­tion marked by the peace­ful, dig­ni­fied and en­thu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pa­tion in the election last Novem­ber,” he said.

He wel­comed the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “em­pha­sised” ini­tia­tives to hold a di­a­logue to build rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, in­clud­ing be­tween the lead­ers of mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment, civil so­ci­ety groups, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and eth­nic armed groups.

Mr Ban said that former pres­i­dent U Thein Sein had steered Myan­mar on its “path to­ward har­mo­nious, multi-eth­nic, multi-re­li­gious and pros­per­ous democ­racy”.

How­ever, un­der the former pres­i­dent’s watch in­ter-com­mu­nal re­li­gious ten­sion, fo­mented by na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ment, erupted be­tween Mus­lim and Bud­dhism com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the deadly 2012 vi­o­lence in Rakhine State, and sub­se­quent episodes through­out the coun­try.

Bring­ing re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties into har­mony still re­mains a key chal­lenge for the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has been crit­i­cised as keep­ing “silent” about the coun­try’s per­se­cuted, state­less Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Rakhine State.

Mr Ban said the NLD-backed govern­ment has promised him that it will solve the root of the prob­lem in Rakhine State – the is­sue of cit­i­zen­ship for those who self-iden­tify as “Ro­hingya”, a term that both the pre­vi­ous govern­ment led by U Thein Sein and the cur­rent NLD-led ad­min­is­tra­tion have de­clined to use.

“I con­veyed the con­cerns of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity about the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who have been liv­ing in very poor conditions in IDP camps for the past four years. Like all peo­ple ev­ery­where, they need and de­serve a fu­ture, hope and dig­nity,” he said.

“This is not just the ques­tion of the Ro­hingya com­mu­nity’s rights to self-iden­tify; the broader is­sue is that all of Myan­mar’s peo­ple of ev­ery eth­nic­ity and back­ground should be able to live in equal­ity and har­mony, side-by-side with their neigh­bours.”

He also wel­comed the es­tab­lish­ment of the newly founded ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion on Rakhine State, which will be led by his UN pre­de­ces­sor Kofi An­nan.

Crit­ics, how­ever, have pressed the UN to take more ur­gent ac­tion as the com­mis­sion sub­mits its re­port within a one-year dead­line.

“We need long-term so­lu­tions and short-term ac­tion to start to ad­dress the Ro­hingya cri­sis,” U Tun Khin, pres­i­dent of the Burmese Ro­hingya Or­gan­i­sa­tion UK, said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. “We hope that Ban Ki-moon is stress­ing the need for this ap­proach rather than just wait­ing for the An­nan Com­mis­sion to make its re­port.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was not asked spe­cific ques­tions about Rakhine State yes­ter­day. How­ever, when asked what the govern­ment is do­ing to ease ten­sions over the is­sue of in­clu­siv­ity at the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence af­ter some three groups were ef­fec­tively barred from at­tend­ing, she said, “We are try­ing our best for their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­fer­ence. It is up to them should they want to join the con­fer­ence or not.”

Photo: AFP

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon (left) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ar­rive for a press event in Nay Pyi Taw yes­ter­day.

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