AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
NAYPYIDAW/YANGON: UN chief Ban Ki-moon today urged the West to drop more Myanmar sanctions, in a show of support for the reformist regime as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi backtracked on her refusal to take her parliamentary seat and said she will swear a controversial oath in parliament, ending a political impasse that saw her delay her debut in the legislature.
Ban welcomed moves by the international community to reward sweeping changes in the country since the end of direct army rule last year, in a landmark speech to parliament following talks with President Thein Sein.
“Today, I urge the international community to go even further in lifting, suspending, or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions,” he said in the first speech by a foreign dignitary in the fledgling legislature.
Ban, who is in Myanmar for the first time under the new quasi-civilian government, is the latest in a string of top foreign visitors amid a thaw in the army-dominated nation’s relations with the West, which has begun rolling back sanctions in response to reforms.
His address was not witnessed by Suu Kyi and other newly-elected members of her party, after they last week delayed their debut in the legislature in a row over the swearing-in oath.
In a dramatic climbdown, the Nobel laureate told reporters at her National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon that she would pledge to “safeguard” the army-created constitution.
“We have decided to comply at this juncture, because we do not want a political problem or tension,” she said, ending a dispute seen as the first sign of tension with the government since she won a parliamentary seat in historic April 1 by-elections.
“The reason we accept (the oath), firstly is the desire of the people. Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in parliament.”
In his speech to MPs Ban hailed the “vision, leadership and courage” of Thein Sein, who has ushered in a slew of reforms in the last year including welcoming Suu Kyi’s party into the mainstream and freeing political prisoners.
“The path of change is still fragile and uncertain. But it is indeed too narrow to turn back,” he said from the podium of the parliament building, adding that Myanmar’s changes “have inspired the world”.
“President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have demonstrated the confidence and statesmanship needed to look beyond politics to the larger interests of the nation.”
The UN Secretary General is set to meet the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for the first time during his three-day trip. Suu Kyi is now expected to take the oath on Wednesday, according to NLD sources.
Ban said continued heavy fighting in Kachin state, in the far north of the country, was “inconsistent with the successful conclusion of the ceasefire agreements with all other major groups”.