Myanmar’s Crisis & the World

Myanmar’s Civilian Government: Former UN Chief Happy With Junta Boss Talks

By The Irrawaddy 1 May 2023

Former United Nations (UN) chief Ban Ki-moon appears to be pleased by his recent meeting with Myanmar junta boss Min Aung Hlaing, in which he called for an end to coup-related violence, and will likely visit the country again in the future, said the deputy foreign minister of the civilian National Unity Government (NUG), who met virtually with Ban last week.

Ban Ki-moon visited Myanmar as the deputy chair of The Elders, a peace-promoting international body founded by Nelson Mandela, at the invitation of Min Aung Hlaing on April 23 and 24. He met with the regime leader in the capital Naypyitaw and also met with former president U Thein Sein, who led a quasi-civilian government from 2011-2016.

Ban’s visit came at a time when Myanmar is engulfed by violence as armed resistance to the military regime has spread nationwide since the 2021 coup. The junta has resorted to the increasing use of airstrikes, raids and the burning of villages in its efforts to stop the resistance, killing more than 3,400 people so far.

In his press release about his meeting with the regime, Ban said that he urged the juntato adopt an immediate cessation of violence, and start constructive dialogue among all parties concerned,” including the NUG, the parallel government that commands the loyalty of the vast majority of Myanmar people. The regime has branded the NUG and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Forces, as terrorist organizations. Ban also warned the regime that the election they are planning must only be held when conditions were in place for them to be free and fair.

After meeting with the regime, Ban talked online last Thursday with the NUG’s deputy foreign minister U Moe Zaw Oo to explain his Naypyitaw trip.

U Moe Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy that Ban seemed to believe that he had achieved his purpose by delivering his messages in person to the junta boss about ending violence and the proposed election.

“I got an impression that he seems to be content as he was able to deliver his important messages to the junta,” said the deputy foreign minister, adding that Ban will likely visit Myanmar again.

“My understanding is that the recent trip is not his last and that he will visit again in the future,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The deputy foreign minister said that Ban told him during the meeting he understood that he should have consulted with the NUG before flying to Naypyitaw to meet the regime chief. The NUG has called for anyone involved in solving the Myanmar crisis to reach out also to the civilian government.

“He apologized to us for failing to do so given the sensitivity and importance of the trip and meeting,” U Moe Zaw Oo said.

In a statement on Sunday, the NUG said its deputy foreign minister had asked Ban that any future visits to Myanmar be made in consultation with important stakeholders in the country including the NUG, and stressed the need for more coordinated pressure and sanctions on the junta from the international community.

So far the regime has refused to honor a peace plan adopted by regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as a resolution by the UN’s Security Council. Both call for constructive dialogue among all stakeholders. Ban Ki-moon is the latest figure to urge the regime to begin all-inclusive talks.

Both ASEAN and the UN engaged with the junta last year by sending their envoys, but failed to make any breakthrough to end the regime’s violence, as there was little or no tangible pressure on the junta.

“Putting pressure on them and engaging with them should be done in tandem. If not, the regime will exploit you,” said U Moe Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.

It is unknown how Min Aung Hlaing reacted to the latest call for dialogue among all parties from Ban Ki-moon.

Last year, the NUG’s acting president said that his government would consider entering into dialogue with the military regime only if it stopped killing civilians, guaranteed its withdrawal from politics and agreed to abolish the 2008 constitution that favors the military’s dominance in politics. The junta didn’t respond to his statement.

Myanmar’s recent history suggests that the generals are allergic to talks, especially when it comes to politics.

After the Myanmar military’s coup in 1988 and following the repression of the previous junta, the international community, including the UN, sent a series of envoys to persuade the then regime to hold talks with the opposition to end the country’s political deadlock.

The regime, though, refused to listen and nothing positive developed from the envoy’s requests.