(Bangkok) Returning from Burma, former UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged the ruling military junta to end violence in the Southeast Asian country and engage with his opponents.

Burma has descended into chaos since the army overthrew the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, sparking fighting in large parts of the country and bringing the economy to its knees.

The junta carries out a brutal crackdown on dissent, refuses to engage with its opponents and ignores international diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the conflict.

Army ‘must take first steps’ to engage with opponents, Ban said after two-day visit there, during which he met junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, but not the ex-civilian leader in custody.

The former UN secretary-general also said that the “National Unity Government” (NUG), a shadow body dominated by former MPs from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — many of them in exile — should also be part of any “durable solution”.

So far, the army has shown no sign of willingness to engage with the NUG, which it considers a “terrorist” organization.

Human rights groups accuse the junta of massacres, burning villages and airstrikes on areas suspected of harboring its opponents.

Earlier this month, an army airstrike on a village in a resistance-held area killed more than 170 people, according to media and locals.

Ban Ki-Moon did not say whether he had asked to meet Ms. Suu Kyi, who is serving a 33-year prison sentence after a river trial described as a charade by rights defenders.

During his meeting with Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, the South Korean “constructively and openly discussed the latest developments”, the junta’s communications team said without providing further details.

Ban Ki-Moon is part of a group of ex-leaders called “The Elders” which brings together international personalities working for the resolution of conflicts in the world.