UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and opposition leader and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi to work together in pursuit of change in the south-east Asian nation.
In the first ever address by a foreign dignitary to Myanmar’s fledgling parliament, Ban praised both leaders’ “vision, leadership and courage,” adding that “full determination and common leadership and partnership” will be vital if the country is to “meet the challenge of reconciliation and development,” the BBC reports.
Saying the country had reached a critical point on the path to change, Ban called on the parties in Myanmar to “summon the political will to make lasting change” and rise above political differences to tackle the greater interests of the country’s people, whose expectations were high.
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Ban’s visit is his first since July 2009, when the country was fully under the rule of a military junta and access to Suu Kyi was denied.
Myanmar has since freed more than 600 political prisoners, legalized unions, eased media censorship, initiated an overhaul of the economy, and secured ceasefire deals with a dozen ethnic rebel groups, Reuters reports.
On Sunday Ban described Thein Sein, a former top general, as a “key driver” of the reforms, and called on western powers to further relax sanctions on the country “so it doesn’t slide back down the scale,” according to Bloomberg.
The United States, European Union, Canada and Australia have already eased sanctions, and Ban has said this will allow the United Nations to increase its role in Myanmar’s development.
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On Tuesday Ban is to meet Suu Kyi, who led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to a landslide 43-seat victory in by-elections on April 1.
On Monday the opposition leader and the NLD agreed to end a boycott of parliament and swear a legislative oath to safeguard Myanmar’s constitution which it had previously resisted.
Suu Kyi told reporters after a party meeting that the decision had been taken “as a gesture of respect to the desires of the people and in consideration of the requests made by lawmakers from democratic parties and independent lawmakers,” according to Reuters.
The NLD’s members of parliament are to travel to the capital city of Naypyitaw for the session on Wednesday, officials said.
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