As Myanmar continues on its road to democracy, we support the work of Kofi Annan as chair of the independent Commission on Rakhine State.
The Elders have worked extensively to support the democratisation process in Myanmar and efforts to resolve conflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups. They welcomed the election of a civilian-led government in November 2015 after the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). In August 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi invited Kofi Annan to chair an independent Commission to assess the situation in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya community. The Elders support Kofi Annan in this role, which he is undertaking in his own capacity.
The Elders have been concerned about Myanmar since the group was formed in 2007 and have long called for meaningful change towards an inclusive and democratic society. The group spoke out against the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and pressed for the release of all other political prisoners in the country.
The Elders have also drawn attention to the conflicts in Myanmar, as well as the humanitarian and human rights situation. In response to the opening up of the country initiated by the Thein Sein Government, in 2011 The Elders supported the gradual lifting of sanctions imposed by foreign governments against the former military regimes.
A delegation of Elders made a first visit to Myanmar in September 2013: Martti Ahtisaari, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jimmy Carter met with President U Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, parliamentarians, former political prisoners, civil society organisations and religious leaders to hear a broad range of perspectives on Myanmar’s future.
Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland with Aung San Suu Kyi, September 2013
Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland returned to the region in March 2014, travelling to Nay Pyi Taw and Myitkyina, Kachin State, in Myanmar and to Mae Sot and Chiang Mai in Thailand. They deepened their relationships with the Government, Parliament and the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw), meeting President Thein Sein and Speaker Thura Shwe Mann and the Commander-in-Chief. The Elders also met a wide range of civil society organisations, focusing in particular on representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities.
During their visit, the Elders encouraged the government to strive for greater inclusiveness, to overcome decades of mistrust within society and reflect the full diversity and talents of the population.
Gro Harlem Brundtland at Mae Tao Clinic, March 2014
Ahead of a pivotal year for Myanmar, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland travelled to the region for the third time in December 2014 alongside their fellow Elders Lakhdar Brahimi and Hina Jilani. During their one-week visit to Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar and Chiang Mai in Thailand, the Elders continued their efforts to encourage sustained progress in Myanmar’s transition process. They concluded their visit by calling on the warring parties in Myanmar’s 60 year-long conflicts to seize the opportunity to end the fighting and start to build a new and inclusive federal state.
Lakhdar Brahimi, Hina Jilani and Martti Ahtisaari with U Tin Aye, Chairman of the Union Election Commission, December 2014