YANGON — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute to the late Kofi Annan during a talk in Singapore on Tuesday, calling the former UN secretary general and chairman of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State someone who had a “generous and positive nature” and who wanted Myanmar “to reach its goals for peace, prosperity, security and progress.”
Annan died on Saturday at the age of 80.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she first approached Annan in 2016 and asked him “to lead a commission to help us find the lasting solution to the problems jeopardizing peace and progress in the region so bountifully blessed by nature,” referring to the western state of Rakhine, where communal strife between ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya Muslims had been on the rise since 2012.
It was the first time foreign experts had been invited to assist the country’s efforts to tackle the Rakhine crisis. He accepted the offer to lead the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and made recommendations for ending the violence in the conflict-torn state and promoting development, despite some resistance to his appointment from local ethnic Arakanese, opposition parties and the military.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi immediately endorsed the commission’s 88 recommendations and vowed to implement them in the shortest timeframe possible allowing for conditions on the ground. Annan’s recommendations have been treated as a roadmap for promoting communal reconciliation and development in Rakhine.
“Please allow me at this point to pay tribute to Dr. Kofi Annan. His quality and achievements were myriad,” the state counselor said during her lecture on Myanmar’s democratic transition at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), adding that Annan abided by his decision to help Myanmar even after events in Rakhine brought severe criticism onto the country.
She said Annan showed compassion, integrity, wisdom and courage in his leadership of the commission and the recommendations it made.
“His approach is constructive and caring,” she said. “Despite the many demands on his duty, he made time to speak to me on telephone occasionally to ask how he might help, to listen, to encourage.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said Annan’s life offered lessons everyone could learn from.
“It exemplified the principles and values on which the UN is founded, the principles and values that allow us to hope peace and prosperity might be possible for all in our world,” said she.
Of the 88 recommendations the commission made, the state counselor said, 81 have been implemented to date and would help establish lasting peace and stability in Rakhine.
“But challenges there are multi-faceted and require multi-tasking,” she said.