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Ban to address the Burmese Parliament

(Mizzima) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will address the Burmese Parliament on Monday and meet with Burmese President Thein. He will be the first major Western official to address the Parliament, which was formed in March 2010.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his bodyguards depart from U Thant's tomb in Rangoon after paying homage on Sunday, April 29, 2012. Ban will address the Burmese Parliament on Monday during a three-day visit to the country. Photo: Mizzima / Ye MinHe will meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, during his three-day trip to Burma, where he will look for ways for the United Nations to assist the long-isolated country in its democratic reforms.

Ban is also scheduled to pay his respects at the tomb of U Thant, a Burmese diplomat who was U.N. secretary-general in 1961-71.

He arrived in Rangoon on Sunday, a day ahead of European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton who is also in Burma, following the recent suspension of European Union sanctions against the long-isolated country.

Ban told the BBC he was “optimistic” but warned of “hard work ahead,” especially in the Burma’s peace process with ethnic minorities. Ban is also due to visit northern Shan State, one of the world's biggest opium-growing regions, where the U.N. has started a poppy eradication programme, according to the BBC.

Ashton, who has already met with the opposition leader, opened a new E.U. office in Rangoon on Saturday to oversee the management of aid programs and to handle political matters.

Ban last visited Burma in 2009, but was then denied access to Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi led her pro-democracy party to win 43 seats in by-elections on April 1. She was under house arrest during his last visit but was released 15 months later.

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