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Ex-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on surprise Myanmar trip

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Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has made a surprise visit to military-run Myanmar on behalf of a group of elder statesmen that engages in peacemaking and human rights initiatives around the world, local media and a South Korean diplomat said.

The arrival of Ban, the deputy chair of The Elders, in the capital, Naypyidaw, was announced on Sunday night by state television MRTV. It said he arrived with a small delegation and was greeted by the deputy ministers for defence and foreign affairs.

“This visit by Mr Ban Ki-moon was totally scheduled by The Elders. We are not engaged in this process,” said a South Korean embassy official on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “This is not the official visit. It is probably a two-day visit. He will depart this evening.”

Ban is a former South Korean foreign minister. The Elders was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, and comprises mostly retired world leaders.

It has not yet released any details about the visit. The military government’s spokesperson, Major-General Zaw Min Tun, told the BBC Burmese-language service, which is directed to a Myanmar audience, that Ban met the country’s top leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, on Monday morning to exchange views on the situation in the country.

Ban also met former President Thein Sein in a separate meeting, but did not meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned since her elected government was removed by the army in February 2021, BBC reported. It said Ban departed Myanmar after the meetings.

When he was the UN chief, Ban had met then-President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.

No details have been released about the talks, but they appeared certain to have dealt with Myanmar’s ongoing political crisis.

Myanmar has been racked by violent unrest since the army removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021. The takeover prevented her National League for Democracy party from beginning a second term in office.

The army’s seizure of power was met with strong public opposition, which security forces quashed with deadly force and has since turned into widespread armed resistance.

Outside efforts to mediate peace have met with no success, even when coming from parties sympathetic to the military government, such as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The government decries most pressure to negotiate as infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty and generally describes most of the pro-democracy opposition as terrorists.

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