Ban praises Suu Kyi for her leadership

May 2, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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YANGON, Myanmar, May 2 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's main opposition leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for her courage in the fight for human rights.

"She has been a symbol of our hope for human rights for all around the world," said Ban after meeting Suu Kyi, long-time leader of the National League for Democracy party.

"She is a strong leader of this country for democracy and development and for human rights for all.

"I, like many other people around the world, fully admire her leadership and commitment during the last two or three decades for peace and development of human rights of this country, for this region and for the world," Ban said, standing beside Suu Kyi at a media presentation outside her house in Yangon.

Suu Kyi and 42 other members of the NLD who were elected in April by-elections likely will be sworn into Parliament this week.

Ban made his comments half way through his three-day visit to Myanmar where he also became the first foreigner to address Parliament, the BBC reported.

Ban's visit marks another chapter in the apparent democratizing of Myanmar and the political rehabilitation of Suu Kyi who spent most of the past 20 years under various forms of detention, including prison and house arrest.

Suu Kyi won a national election 20 years ago but was refused power by the ruling military government. She was imprisoned several times for public statements condemning the lack of democracy.

After a national election in November 2010, the new government of ex-junta members took office in early 2011, although many Western countries called the process and result fraudulent.

However, moves toward a more open democratic process, including recent elections for vacant seats in the Parliament of Myanmar -- formerly called Burma -- have gained cautious approval from Suu Kyi and outside observers.

Suu Kyi and other democratic reformers remain wary over military authority over the government, partly due to reserving a quarter of seats in Parliament for military appointees.

Ban also talked with President Thein Sein, a former military leader during the junta period, and several high-ranking ministers.

Ban said he would push for the lifting of more U.N. economic sanctions against Myanmar "as quickly as possible," a report by the government newspaper New Light of Myanmar said.

The United Nations would assist in technology transfers, help manage a national census in Myanmar in 2014 and promote Myanmar's business relations internationally. It also would help Myanmar eliminate opium cultivation through working with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, New Light reported.

Ban also said the government must work toward settling disputes with armed internal groups if the country wanted complete stability.

Thein Sein said the Ministry of Border Affairs continued to allow humanitarian aid to reach conflict areas and would step up cooperation with international non-governmental organizations including the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In particular, Ban urged the government reach accommodation with the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army that has been fighting a bush war with the military for several decades, New Light said.

This week the KIO sent a letter to the government requesting further negotiation with the government peace negotiator Aung Thaung, a report by the Irrawaddy newspaper, based in Thailand, said.

Despite moves toward a more open society, the government remains entangled in often open military conflict with rebel groups in the remote states of Kachin, Karen, Shan and Mon.

The groups are fighting for more autonomy and a greater share in riches from natural resource exploitation.

In March the government announced it had signed a ceasefire with rebel groups in Karen state. The rebels had been fighting with the central government for most of the years since Myanmar's independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.

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