UN chief to focus on development, rights in Myanmar, Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will highlight the importance of development and human rights during visits next week to Sri Lanka and Myanmar, two legs of a five-stop Asia tour, his spokesman said Thursday.

Ban will arrive in Myanmar on Tuesday for talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto prime minister who is leading reforms in the country after decades of military rule.

He will address a peace conference organized by Suu Kyi that aims to bring ethnic rebel groups to the table to end decades of fighting.

The UN chief will also meet President Htin Kyaw, General Ming Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, and other political and civil society representatives.

Ban will discuss human rights and development during the talks.

“Those issues will be raised,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The United Nations has criticized Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority, who are denied citizenship and have been living in squalid displacement camps.

During his visit to Sri Lanka beginning late Wednesday, Ban will meet with President Maithripala Sirisena and deliver a keynote speech in Colombo on the UN’s global development goals.

The UN chief will focus on the “promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development,” Dujarric said.

Human rights is a sensitive issue in Sri Lanka, where the United Nations is pushing for the creation of a special court to try war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan army’s long conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Government forces killed the rebels’ leader in May 2009 after a brutal military crackdown, and declared an end to the 37-year conflict, which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

Ban will also visit a resettlement site for displaced people in Jaffna, in the north, and take part in a conference on youth and reconciliation in Galle, in the south.

The UN chief will start off his tour in Singapore and attend the G20 summit in China later in the week, followed by a meeting of the Asia-Pacific ASEAN forum and the United Nations in Laos.

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