The United Nations Security Council requested again on Friday the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and the release of all prisoners, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as it backed Southeast Asian nations’ demands for an immediate end to violence and talks to address the political crisis caused by the generals’ February 1 coup.
The press statement came after a briefing by the top UN envoy, who said that the citizens of Myanmar’s strong, united demand for democracy, which has been protesting since the military’s power grab, has generated “unexpected difficulties” for military leaders in consolidating power and risks bringing the country’s administration to a halt.
Christine Schraner Burgener, who is currently in Bangkok, told the 15-member council that her discussions in Southeast Asia had “compound” her concern that Myanmar’s situation is worsening in all regions.
She cited a revival of violence in ethnic areas, more poor people losing employment, civil servants refusing to work in protest of the coup, and a brewing crisis of families in and around Yangon being “pushed to the brink” of poverty, debt, and survival.
“The common aspiration for democracy has united the people of Myanmar across religious, ethnic and communal divides like never before,” Schraner Burgener said. “Such strong unity has created unexpected difficulties for the military in consolidating power and stabilising the coup.”
Members of the Security Council “reiterated their deep concern about the situation in Myanmar following the military’s declaration of a state of emergency on February 1 and reiterated their support for Myanmar’s democratic transition.”
The council also reaffirmed previous statements, such as strongly criticizing the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the deaths of hundreds of civilians, as well as calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of detainees.
Schraner Burgener attended the April 24 meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, where the party called for an immediate cessation of violence and a return to dialogue to resolve the political crisis.
The UN envoy said she was able to speak with army chief Min Aung Hlaing on the sidelines of the event and requested permission to visit Myanmar once more.
They decided “to keep the specifics of the conversation confidential in order to allow for continued frank and open discussions,” she said, but she told the council that she “amplified” the statements accepted by its 15 members.
Schraner Burgener has repeatedly requested permission to visit Myanmar, where generals detained Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her elected government before taking power three months ago, but the military has yet to grant her permission.
Since the coup, pro-democracy demonstrations have taken place in cities and towns throughout the country.
“The general administration of the state could risk coming to a standstill as the pro-democracy movement continues in spite of the ongoing use of lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture as part of the military’s repression,” the envoy said, according to diplomats.
Calls for robust response
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy organization that has been monitoring arrests and deaths since the coup, security forces have killed at least 759 demonstrators and arrested over 4,500 people for resisting the coup. According to the AAPP, 3,485 people are still detained.
The Security Council has firmly denounced the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in a number of resolutions, and has called for the restoration of democracy and the release of those detained.
The #UNSC's failure to hold #Myanmar military accountable for their violation of int'l crimes will prolong military dictatorship & inevitable hunger & grinding poverty.— Wai Wai Nu (@waiwainu) April 30, 2021
🔺Ending impunity is vital.#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #MilkTeaAlliance #SaveMyanmar https://t.co/qiOcvLgEM5
People of #Burma want to tell @eu_eeas @USStateDepartm2 @FCDOGovUK & @SchranerBurgen1 that don’t fall into the trap that the junta would take to the @Asean’s 5 consensus seriously. At least don’t waste your time. @Mandy_Segall @Milktea_Myanmar @NUGMyanmar @sophiacmcbride @Reaproy— Kyaw Win (@kyawwin78) April 30, 2021
According to civil society organizations, the Security Council must settle on a more comprehensive response.
“The military has already reneged on the flawed ‘consensus’ it reached with ASEAN leaders, so it’s critical the international community not treat last weekend’s outcome as a legitimate path forward for Myanmar,” Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said in a statement ahead of the closed-door briefing.
“The Security Council must keep its focus on the solutions long demanded by Myanmar’s people, in particular women-led civil society groups, including a global arms embargo, targeted sanctions, and a referral to the International Criminal Court. It’s unconscionable that the Council has yet to act and they cannot deflect their responsibility to do so because others, like ASEAN, have ‘acted’.”
The military, which dominated Myanmar for nearly 50 years before making cautious steps toward democracy a decade ago, admitted that some demonstrators were killed but accused them of inciting the bloodshed.
According to Schraner Burgener, there have been reports that ethnic armed groups in border areas are training civilians, mainly students from urban areas, how to use guns.
“In the absence of a collective international response, there has been a rise in violence and reported use of improvised explosive devices,” she said, according to diplomats.
According to the UN envoy, roughly 20,000 people have fled their homes and are still displaced within Myanmar, while nearly 10,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
The World Food Programme predicts that pre-existing poverty, COVID-19, and the political crisis will cause 3.4 million more people to go hungry in the next six months, while the UNDP predicts that nearly half of Myanmar’s population will be impoverished by next year.