UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a historic speech to Burma’s Union Parliament on Monday which called on further reform to hasten the nation’s democratic rebirth.
And he urged the international community to go even further in lifting, suspending or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions against the military-dominated Southeast Asian nation. The United States, European Union and other Western powers have already started rolling back restrictive measures.
Ban praised both Burmese President Thein Sein and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi for their “vision, leadership and courage” and said that the path to reform was “too narrow to turn back.”
The 67-year-old met President Thein Sein earlier in the morning and is scheduled to hold talks with Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 out of 45 seats in the April 1 by-elections, on Tuesday.
“I commend President Thein Sein for his vision, leadership and courage to put Myanmar on the path of change,” Ban told assembled MPs.
“I salute Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League of Democracy and others for joining the political process and participating in the recent elections. For many years you displayed the resilience and fortitude that for generations has distinguished the Myanmar people.
“We know that Myanmar can meet the challenges of reconciliation, democracy and development but it will take the full determination and your common leadership and partnership. The path of change is still fragile and uncertain but it is indeed too narrow to turn back.”
But Ban’s speech in the capital Naypyidaw was tempered with a note of caution with regards ongoing conflicts with ethnic minorities in Burma’s border regions.
“Elections and open government must be matched with a healthy and vibrant political climate,” he warned.
Ban paid respect to one of the former holders of his current post—the highly respected Burmese diplomat U Thant who was the UN secretary general from 1961 to 1971.
Suu Kyi will meet the UN chief just after announcing that the row over the parliamentary admission oath as been settled. Her party boycotted the original opening of the legislature on April 23 over a clause which said MPs must “safeguard” the widely-condemned 2008 Constitution.
The NLD wanted the wording changed to “respect” as it campaigned on a platform of amending certain undemocratic articles in the Constitution.
Ban is also due to visit northern Shan State in the next few days to observe how a UN-backed poppy eradication program is progressing