Ban Ki-moon pays tribute to Burma's U Thant

June 4, 2009 (DVB), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday paid tribute to former Burmese UN chief U Thant on the 100-year anniversary of his birth and lamented his unrealised vision for democracy in his home country.

Speaking to guests at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Ban spoke of his sadness at the situation in Burma, and reaffirmed his desire to visit the country.

"It is a sad irony that U Thant's vision of democracy has not been realized in his own country," he said.

"That is why I would like to visit [Burma] again this year."

Ban said last month that he was "very seriously" discussing with the Burmese government a visit to Burma, but nothing concrete has yet been announced.

He had cancelled a trip in December last year, citing lack of progress by the government on the UN's goals for the country.

Impetus for another visit has been provided by the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is likely to be further imprisoned for up to five years on charges of breaching conditions of her house arrest.

On his last visit to Burma, following cyclone Narigs last May, Ban Ki-moon reported that he had paid his respects to the U Thant mausoleum in Rangoon.

U Thant, who held the seat from 1961 to 1971, was only the third UN Secretary General, and the first to come from Asia.

He is widely credited for his role in diffusing the Cuban Missile Crisis, and ending the civil war in the Congo.

When he died from lung cancer in 1974, aged 65, the military government in Burma refused him any honours, likely due to his close ties with the former civilian government of U Nu.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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