The Elders, an independent group of former leaders who work to promote peace and human rights, ended their five-day
visit to Myanmar with a call for an immediate end to armed conflicts in the country and for the start of talks for the betterment of the country.
At a press conference at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon on Thursday, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who is the deputy chair of the The Elders, said she was very pleased to hear that negotiations on a national ceasefire accord are expected to resume in the coming days and expressed her hope that the national agreement can be concluded soon.
The delegation leader, making her third visit to Myanmar in the last 15 months, also said the country’s people have an amazing opportunity to build a new state, one in which all groups live harmoniously together on the basis of equality.
She said the most important thing is to start the talks seriously, be it the talks among four, six, 12 or 14 parties.
Speaking about the future of the military in the new Myanmar, The Elders said it is only natural for a country to have a single army to defend its entire territory, not separate ones in the different parts of the country.
In a statement delivered to local media before the start of the press conference, the delegation said its visit marks a continuation of efforts to encourage Myanmar towards a democratic and just society that reflects the full diversity and talents of its people.
According to the statement, The Elders delegation, which paid a two-day visit Thailand before coming to Myanmar, met in that country’s northern city of Chiang Mai with representatives of different ethnic organizations and civil society to learn about their current concerns.
The four-member delegation, which also included former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Algerian Foreign Minister and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and Hina Jilani, a Supreme Court advocate and human rights defender from Pakistan, had substantive discussions with President U Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Union Election Commission Chairman U Tin Aye and Union Minister U Aung Min on progress made in moving towards a more democratic society and the many challenges that still lie ahead.
Brundtland told reporters her delegation was told by the Commander-in-Chief that the Tatmadaw “also want a peace agreement”, while she added that other Myanmar leaders they met also showed support for peace process and ceasefire.
The former Norwegian prime minister concluded by saying The Elders will continue to support all the people of Myanmar as they continue their journey towards a democratic society.
The delegation also spoke with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who chairs the opposition National League for Democracy, in Yangon about the benefits of national dialogue among all the key actors and about the importance of national reconciliation.
The Elders, which was founded in 2007 by former South African President and Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela, is chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and also includes former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. It made its first visit to Myanmar in September 2013 and its second one in March 2014.