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United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the international community has heightened expectations that Burma, under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership, will make greater progress towards peace.
Speaking at a joint-press conference with Suu Kyi in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw, on the eve of the Union Peace Conference, the UN secretary-general responded to a reporter’s question about the UN’s role in the peace process, saying: “I told the State Counsellor that since she assumed this post as State Counsellor, there is much stronger and heightened expectations that this government will make much much faster and further progress.”
Ban opened his statement by expressing condolences for the injuries and destruction caused by an earthquake in central Burma last week, in which many of Burma’s historical Buddhist pagodas in Bagan were affected.
Turning to the peace talks, dubbed by Suu Kyi the “21st Century Panglong Conference”, the UN chief said, “I commend the new government for its emphasis on dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation between military and civil society leaders and political and economic stakeholders.
“However, the government also faces great challenges. The steps you have taken towards peace and national reconciliation will need to be further strengthened, broadened and consolidated. This is the real expectation of the international community.
“In that regard, the Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference is a promising first step. I congratulate all participants for their patience, determination and spirit of compromise.”
Ban Ki-moon also addressed the Arakan issue, saying, “The situation is complex, and the government has assured me of [its] commitment to addressing the roots of the problem. I conveyed the concern of the international community about the tens of thousands of people who have been living in very poor conditions in IDP camps for over four years. Like all people everywhere, they need and deserve a future of hope and dignity.
“This is not just a question of the Rohingya community’s right to self-identify. The broader issue is that all of Myanmar’s people, of every ethnicity and background, should be able to live in equality and harmony, side by side with their neighbours.
“People who have been living for generations in this country should enjoy the same legal status and citizenship as everyone else.”
The peace talks are due to begin today with more than 700 delegates attending, including representatives of the government, military, parliament, ethnic armed groups, political parties and civil society.