UN calls for return of democracy in Myanmar and end to violence

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN Security Council on Friday again demanded the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and the release of all detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and strongly supported calls from countries to ‘Southeast Asia to an immediate cessation of violence and talks as the first step towards a solution following the February 1 military coup.

The council’s press release follows a briefing by the UN Supreme Envoy that the strong and united demand for democracy from the Burmese people who have protested since the coup has created “unexpected difficulties” for the leaders. military forces in the consolidation of power and risks bringing the administration of the nation to a standstill.

Christine Schraner Burgener said in remarks at the closed-door council meeting obtained by The Associated Press that her talks in the region “aggravated” her fears that the situation in Myanmar would deteriorate across the board. She pointed to a resurgence of fighting in ethnic areas, with more and more poor people losing their jobs, officials refusing to work in protest against the coup and a brewing crisis in and around the main city. of Yangon “pushed to the limit” for food, going into debt and trying to survive.

The members of the Security Council “reiterated their deep concern at the situation in Myanmar following the declaration of a state of emergency imposed by the army on February 1 and reiterated their support for Myanmar’s democratic transition.”

The council also reiterated its previous statements, including strongly condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters and the deaths of hundreds of civilians, calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of detainees. Council members also called on the army “to show the utmost restraint” and “on all sides to refrain from violence”, and stressed “the need to fully respect human rights and to continue dialogue and reconciliation “.

Schraner Burgener spoke via video from Bangkok where she returned after traveling to Jakarta to meet with attendees at the April 24 ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as ASEAN which includes Myanmar and was followed by the military commander of the junta, Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

The UN envoy said she had met with the ASEAN sideline commander in chief and that they had agreed to “keep the details of the exchange under wraps to allow frank and open discussions to continue.” , but she assured the council that she “had amplified” the statements her 15 members had approved.

Based on her meeting with General Hlaing, Schraner Burgener told council that on Thursday she again requested to visit Myanmar. His previous demands were turned down by the military, who said the time was not right.

“Over the past three years, I have built constructive relationships and trust with key players in Myanmar, which would allow me to directly initiate substantive discussions on how the current impasse could be resolved if the ‘access to the country was allowed,’ she said. “My presence could also help calm tensions. “

The Security Council expressed the hope that Schraner Burgener would visit Myanmar “as soon as possible”.

Schraner Burgener said she plans to stay in the region in the coming weeks and will keep in close contact with ASEAN members to support “the swift and full implementation” of her “five-point consensus” on the crisis in Myanmar.

He calls for an immediate end to the violence, for a dialogue between all parties concerned, for the dialogue process to be mediated by an ASEAN special envoy, for the provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels. and a visit to Myanmar by the association’s special envoy to meet with all parties concerned.

The Security Council reiterated its “strong support for ASEAN’s positive and constructive role in facilitating a peaceful solution for the people of Myanmar and commended ASEAN’s continued efforts to engage with all concerned parties in Myanmar.

Council members called for the full implementation of the “five-point consensus” without delay, urged continued ASEAN leadership, and supported an early visit to Myanmar by an ASEAN envoy, who has not yet been named.

The Security Council and Schraner Burgener have made it clear that they see the roles of the Security Council and ASEAN as complementary – the most powerful body of the UN as a key international actor and the organization of Southeast Asia as a key regional player.

Schraner Burgener said she had had “important discussions” with foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand as well as ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi , calling these meetings “a testament to the UN’s commitment to support ASEAN and ensure complementarity.”

The Security Council also “encouraged the complementarity of its work with that of ASEAN”.

Acting British Ambassador James Roscoe called ASEAN’s demand for an immediate end to violence an “unconditional demand” accepted by the Burmese junta.

He expressed concern that General Hlaing said after the ASEAN meeting that he would only consider his five points “the recommended steps to resolve the crisis once the situation stabilizes.”

The February 1 coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that has led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, leading to Suu Kyi assuming the leadership of the 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and investing in the country. The coup came after the November elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won by overwhelming majority, and military contests.

Since the ASEAN summit, protests have continued in many parts of Myanmar against the junta, as have arrests and beatings by security forces, despite an apparent deal from Hlaing to end the violence. . Many protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the ASEAN meeting, especially its failure to demand the release of political leaders. Suu Kyi was arrested in the coup and is one of some 3,400 people still detained.

Schraner Burgener told the council: “The release of all political prisoners and other detainees as well as full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms will be paramount.

She warned that “ongoing reports of lethal force, arrests and ill-treatment since then risk undermining the momentum generated by the ASEAN leaders’ meeting.”

Schraner Burgener cited “a resurgence of fighting in ethnic areas (…) with reports of continued airstrikes displacing thousands of people and killing innocent civilians”.

The UN envoy also noted “the reported use of improvised explosive devices” and “reports that civilians, mostly students in urban areas, are now receiving training in weapons handling in the regions. ethnic armed organizations “.

“Confidence-building measures are urgently needed,” she said, expressing hope that her visit will take place “as it could help provide space to move forward on points of consensus.”

Schraner Burgener said the number of deaths was rising daily, citing the latest figures from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners that more than 756 people have been killed and 3,450 arrested, charged or sentenced.

The United Nations estimates that around 20,000 people have fled their homes and remain internally displaced in Myanmar while nearly 10,000 have fled to neighboring countries, said UN envoy, and the World Food Program says pre-existing poverty, COVID-19 and political crisis are likely. lead to an additional 3.4 million people going hungry over the next six months.

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