x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UN chief Ban Ki-moon hails Suu Kyi as a 'real leader'

Mr Moon praises Myanmar pro-democracy leader for backing down over a boycott of parliament which had threatened to stall the fragile reform process.

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meet for the first time in Yangon yesterday.
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meet for the first time in Yangon yesterday.

YANGON // UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday for backing down over a boycott of parliament which had threatened to stall the fragile reform process.

After his first talk with the Nobel laureate, Mr Ban hailed Ms Suu Kyi as a "real leader" who had shown "flexibility" in climbing down over a refusal to take a parliamentary oath therein ending a political impasse.

Ms Suu Kyi announced on Monday that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party would take its seats in parliament - dominated by the military and its political allies - and pledge to "safeguard" the army-created constitution.

"I know that it must have been a very difficult decision," Mr Ban said.

"But a real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people. This is what she has done yesterday and I really admire and respect her decision.

"I am sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian for the betterment and well-being of this great country."

Ms Suu Kyi, who won a seat in the April 1 by-elections, is expected to take the oath today, according to NLD sources.

Appearing alongside Mr Ban after their near hour-long talk at her lakeside villa in Yangon, Ms Suu Kyi said she was willing to compromise.

"We have always believed in flexibility, in the political process... that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence," she said.

The UN chief, who on Monday became the first visiting foreigner to address Myanmar's legislature, also hailed the reformist efforts of President Thein Sein and pledged to support Myanmar's government through its transition to democracy.

"This process should be irreversible," he said. "There can be no turning back."

Mr Ban is the latest in a string of top foreign visitors to Myanmar amid a thaw in the army-dominated nation's relations with the West.

Mr Ban also welcomed moves by the international community to reward sweeping changes in the country since the end of direct army rule last year, and called for the West to go further in easing or lifting sanctions.

Ms Suu Kyi yesterday sounded a note of caution over the deepening of aid to Myanmar, urging international support to be carefully targeted to "empower the people" rather than the government.