UN chief hails flexibility of Myanmar's Suu Kyi

May 1, 2012 - 6:06 AM
APTOPIX Myanmar UN

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, talks to media during a press conference after meeting with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside residence in Yangon, Myanmar Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, winding up a trip to encourage reforms in Myanmar, praised opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday for supporting democratization by making a political compromise.

Ban said after meeting Suu Kyi that he admired her for agreeing to drop a demand that the wording of the oath of office be changed before her party members take their seats in parliament, which is expected Wednesday.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy had sought to have the wording changed to "respect" the constitution from "safeguard" the constitution, but agreed Monday that it could work on the issue after being sworn in. The party wants to amend elements of the 2008 charter it considers undemocratic.

"Politicians sometimes will continue to have differences of opinion, but real leaders demonstrate flexibility for the greater cause of people and for the country," said Ban. "I'm sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian."

President Thein Sein, prime minister in the former military government, came to power a year ago after a general election that left the military in firm control but signaled a desire for political reconciliation. His government is keen to have Western nations drop the sanctions they imposed against the junta for its repressive policies. His program gained steam after winning he endorsement of Suu Kyi's democracy movement, which then nearly swept April 1 by-elections to make it the spearhead of a small opposition bloc in parliament.

Ban in a speech to parliament on Monday urged Western nations to ease sanctions, saying such action would encourage further reform. He also called for a significant increase in development aid.

In that speech, believed to have been the first ever by a foreigner before Myanmar's parliament, he hailed Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, saying they had "demonstrated the confidence and statesmanship needed to look beyond politics to the longer and larger interests of the nation."

He said Tuesday that that in meetings with the two, he encouraged flexibility, wisdom and compromise for tackling issues on which they disagreed.

Suu Kyi had been criticized by some sympathizers over her party's earlier decision to boycott parliament, and on Monday she said she took responsibility for failing to be aware of the wording problem earlier.

On Tuesday, she said that her party has always worked flexibly, even as an extra-parliamentary opposition.

"We have always believed in flexibility throughout the years of our struggle," the Nobel peace laureate said after meeting Ban. "That is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence."

(This version CORRECTS year of constitution to 2008 instead of 2007 in paragraph 3)