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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Joint press encounter by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi [scroll down for Q&A]

Yangon, Myanmar, 1 May 2012

DASSK:  I would like to introduce the Secretary-General to you.  I just want to say that it has been a great pleasure to be able to welcome him to my home. I can’t say to Burma, because this is not the first time he has been to Burma. He has been welcomed to Burma before, but this is the first time that I have been able to welcome him to my home, and it has been a great pleasure to meet him and to meet Mrs. Ban.

The Secretary-General has very kindly agreed to take a few questions from the press, but I understand that the time is running out. He probably has another appointment, so if we could keep the questions to two or three, after the Secretary-General has made a few opening remarks.

SG: Thank you, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Minglapa. It is a great honour for me to finally have a face-to-face meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  It is not for lack of my trying, but simply it didn’t happen and they didn’t allow [it]. Only at the third time, I am meeting her, and we had a very constructive exchange of views on all spectrums of the issues which the Myanmar Government and the Myanmar people will work together [on] with the international community, including the United Nations.

In fact, this is the first time we have been in constant contact through telephone or correspondence or through my special advisers, particularly Vijay Nambiar.

What I saw of her has been confirmed this morning. She is really a strong and dedicated leader of this country for democracy and development and human rights for all. I, like everybody in the world, fully admire her leadership and commitment, during the last two or three decades for peace and development and human rights for this country, for this region, and for the world. She has been a symbol of our hope for human rights for all, all around the world.

I congratulated her on her election as a parliamentarian, and I also commended her decision of yesterday to take the oath and become a parliamentarian. I know that it must have been a very difficult decision. Politicians sometimes will continue to have differences on some issues, but a real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of people and country. This is what she has done yesterday, and I really admire and respect her decision. I am sure that she will play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian for the betterment and well-being of this great country.

In the course of my meetings with President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of this Government, I have always emphasized the importance of flexibility and wisdom and compromise when they discussed all different ideas and options and policies, regardless of what party one represents. The politicians and political leadership – they have to look to the people, be accountable to the people, and always work together for the prosperity and long-term interest of their people. 

President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have [come] far. I am sure of that. I am convinced that they will continue to make progress, further still. This is what I expect. The Myanmar people and Government have embarked on a path of reform, democratization, and fuller participatory democracy. They deserve our support. They deserve the support of the whole international community. The United Nations will continue to stand by the people in every step and in any way we can. This is my pledge.

The process may be difficult. There are still challenges, but this process should be irreversible. There is no turning back. We will have to support their efforts for fuller participatory democracy, development and human rights. That is my pledge as Secretary-General of the United Nations – to work with her and to work with President Thein Sein and the Myanmar people for this purpose.

And finally, I have invited her to visit the United Nations at a time convenient for her, and to the United Nations, and I received a very positive answer from her, and I am looking forward to continuing our good offices role for peace and development and human rights of Myanmar.  

Thank you very much.

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Q: When can you expect to visit the United Nations?

SG: Please ask Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

DASSK: I didn’t give a definite date. I would like to go to the United Nations and I will make every effort to do so, but I can’t say when I shall be going.

SG: We will continue to discuss [this], yes.

Q: What can other Asian countries learn from Myanmar’s democracy process?

SG: Yesterday, I have conveyed my message through a parliamentary address. This is quite difficult. The decisions political leaders will make over a few months or over a few years will shape the future of this country for the coming many generations, therefore you are going through a very important period. It means courage and leadership and perseverance and wisdom, flexibility and compromise. While moving toward democratization, you need to have reconciliation among all the people of Myanmar. That will be very important. The United Nations will try to help this process of reconciliation in any way we can through a peacebuilding process.

Q: On aid, what sort of role would you like for the UN to play? Also, there seems to be quite a rush of private foreign companies coming in, but is there anything that they should be careful about?

DASSK: It’s difficult to answer this question in a few short sentences, but I’ve always said that what is important is that whatever aid comes to Burma – whether development aid or humanitarian aid – should come in such a way that it empowers the people and decreases their dependency on the government. That is the only way in which we can ensure that the democratic process in Burma will go along the right path. And I think the Secretary-General understands my concerns.

SG: About your second part, there is a high expectation of the international community. As we have seen recently, there is a stream of world leaders coming to Myanmar to discuss and help the future of Myanmar. At the same time, it is important that Myanmar’s people would have an opportunity to develop their own country. That is why I am going to launch the UN Global Compact’s Myanmar network right after this meeting. This is an initiative of the United Nations where 7,000 world-class business leaders are discussing among themselves how they can promote and help each other – good trade, good business opportunities among themselves for the world economy. I hope that Myanmar’s local business entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to fully utilize and interact with international business leaders to widen and deepen their business opportunities for direct foreign investment, as well as job creation. Through this interaction, they can strengthen their capacity in terms of good business management and accountability and transparency and even human rights, labour rules. All of these are good principles which the UN Global Compact tries to promote. I hope that this will be a good opportunity for them to mutually benefit for economic development.

Q: (inaudible)

DASSK: We have always believed in flexibility in the political process, not just as now that we are going to be members of Parliament, but we have always believed and have been flexible throughout the years of our struggle because that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence. So I do not think flexibility is going to be a new concept for us, newly-acquired because we are going into the national assembly. It has been part of the political equipment with which we have been working for the last 23-odd years.


Off-the-Cuff on 1 May 2012