Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Myanmar: state media

YANGON (AFP): Former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Myanmar, state media reported on Monday, as the bloody conflict engulfing the country spirals.

Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis unleashed by the military’s 2021 coup have stalled, with the junta ignoring international criticism of its brutal crackdown on dissent and refusing to engage with its opponents.

Myanmar media gave no details of Ban’s visit, but he is a member of “The Elders” group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, which works to promote peace and defuse conflicts.

Ban and his team “arrived in Naypyidaw by air yesterday evening,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

He was met by the deputy ministers for defense and foreign affairs, the newspaper said, without providing details.

A bulletin on state-run TV showed Ban waving for the cameras as he arrived at the airport, accompanied by several officials.

AFP has contacted The Elders for comment on Ban’s trip.

Ban, who also served as South Korean foreign minister, traveled to Myanmar several times during his time as UN secretary general, with varying degrees of success negotiating with the generals.

In 2009 he visited to pressure then junta leader Than Shwe to release Aung San Suu Kyi, but the general brazenly snubbed his attempts to visit the pro-democracy figurehead.

In 2016, with Suu Kyi out of jail and serving as Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, he returned to solidify international support for her push to sign peace agreements with the country’s myriad ethnic rebel groups.

Suu Kyi was detained again at the start of the 2021 coup, which plunged the country into tumult and tanked the economy.

UN special envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer requested a meeting with Suu Kyi during her visit to the country in August last year.

The military rebuffed the request and Heyzer later vowed she would not visit the country again unless she was allowed to meet the Nobel laureate.

The junta wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi in December, jailing her for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have condemned as a sham.