UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday praised Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for backing down over a boycott of parliament, which had threatened to stall the fragile reform process.
After his first ever talks with the Nobel laureate, Ban hailed Aung San Suu Kyi as a “real leader” who had shown “flexibility” in climbing down over a refusal to take a parliamentary oath, therein ending a political impasse.
In a rare retreat, Aung San Suu Kyi announced on Monday that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party would take its seats in parliament — dominated by the military and its political allies — and pledge to “safeguard” the army-created Constitution.
“I know that it must have been a very difficult decision,” Ban said.
“But a real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people. This is what she has done yesterday and I really admire and respect her decision,” he said.
“I am sure she’ll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian for the betterment and well-being of this great country,” he added.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a parliamentary seat in historic April 1 by-elections, is expected to take the oath today, NLD sources said.
Appearing alongside Ban after their near hour-long talks at her lakeside villa in Yangon, Aung San Suu Kyi said she was willing to compromise for the sake of reform.
“We have always believed in flexibility, in the political process ... that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence,” she said.
The UN chief, who on Monday became the first visiting foreigner to address Myanmar’s legislature, also lauded the reformist efforts of Myanmar President Thein Sein and pledged to support the government through its “irreversible” transition to democracy.
He added that meetings with Thein Sein and the NLD leader had left him “convinced that they will continue to make progress.”
Yesterday’s face-to-face talks were the first between Aung San Suu Kyi and Ban, who left frustrated after a previous visit in 2009, when the generals who ruled the nation for decades refused to allow him to see the veteran activist while in detention.
The opposition leader had dropped her boycott of parliament saying her party did not want to cause “a political problem or tension,” ending the first rift with the government since the by-elections.
“Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in parliament,” she said.