UN envoy says “civil war” has spread across Myanmar
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on May 28, 2021. The UN Special Envoy for Myanmar has warned that the takeover February’s military led to armed conflict and if power is not returned to the people in a democratic manner, the country “will go in the direction of a failed state”. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP)
UNITED NATIONS – Outgoing UN envoy to Myanmar says “civil war” has spread across the country and the international community should consider measures to replace the military junta leaders with military junta leaders. more constructive people and wishing to find a peaceful solution to the ousting of the army from the elected government.
Christine Schraner Burgener, whose three-and-a-half-year term ends Sunday, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the measures could be sanctions imposed by individual countries or by the UN Security Council, ” but it’s up to them to decide ”.
She proposed the idea of holding a “global dialogue” to the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice-General Soe Win, on July 16, but never received a response and has not heard from him. army since September. She said she believed the military was determined to win exactly as it did in the past – “but it isn’t anymore, and I hope it won’t be.”
For five decades, Myanmar languished under strict military rule that has led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating with the rise of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2015 election, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and investing in the country.
The February 1 coup followed the November elections which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by overwhelming majority and which the military rejects as fraudulent. Since the military takeover, Myanmar has been rocked by unrest, with peaceful protests against ruling generals first turning into a low-level insurgency in many urban areas after security forces used the deadly force, then into more serious fighting in rural areas, especially in border areas. areas where ethnic minority militias have engaged in violent clashes with government troops.
On September 7, the Government of National Unity, the main underground army resistance coordination group established by elected lawmakers, barred from sitting when the military took power, called for a national uprising. Its “People’s Defense Forces” known as the FPD operate in many areas and have received training and weapons from certain armed ethnic groups.
PDFs and armed ethnic groups now face the Burmese army, one of the largest in Southeast Asia, renowned for its harshness and brutality after years of war in the jungle. Although many Western countries maintain an arms embargo against Myanmar, there is no UN arms embargo and the military buys equipment from countries like Russia, China and the United Nations. ‘Ukraine.
Last week, Schraner Burgener called what is happening in Myanmar an “internal armed conflict”, using terms from international law.
But in Monday’s interview with AP, she said: “We have violence everywhere, it is no longer controlled and the scale of the violence is very high. And, therefore, I would say, ‘yes, a civil war ‘. “
Unlike the generals’ coup in 1988, when people were killed or put in jail and the military conducted its business as usual, Schraner Burgener said this time “the PDF will not give up”.
She said people were not giving in, that the PDF received more military support from ethnic armed groups, that the UN had heard that around 4,000 soldiers had deserted the army, and so far neither the Nations. United Nations nor the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, accepted the coup.
The UN has heard that many soldiers are on the ground conducting “mopping-up operations” in northwest Chin state, Schraner Burgener said, reminding the world that the “mopping-up operation” army in Rakhine state in 2017 saw villages burnt down, widespread rape and more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
“We also heard from the field that it would be difficult for the military because the Chin area is a very mountainous area, and the Chin people are very determined to defend themselves,” she said. “So I’m afraid we have casualties on both sides, and it will be terrible.”
With both sides so invested in the armed struggle, what could really have an impact in restoring peace?
Schraner Burgener said the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement in March calling for the overthrow of the coup, the maintenance of democratic institutions, an end to the violence and the release of Suu Kyi and other officials arrested. But the most powerful UN body has not passed a legally binding resolution on the military takeover and escalation of violence.
The UN envoy said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has moved “from a non-interference position to saying that ASEAN’s reputation is also important, and that it therefore did not allow the commander-in-chief to participate in the ASEAN summit. “which ends Thursday.
“This is a pretty strong message, and clearly, we hope that solidarity in the region will be with the people” who overwhelmingly elected Suu Kyi last November, she said.
Schraner Burgener said she was in regular contact with ASEAN envoy to Myanmar, Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, whose visit did not take place because she was told that he couldn’t meet Suu Kyi.
“I think it is the right decision of the ASEAN special envoy, but I still hope that some dialogue is possible” with the military leaders, although “at the moment I am very skeptical” , she said.
The UN envoy said she also privately met Suu Kyi 15 times prior to the February takeover, and “I’m really still convinced that she only wanted the best for the country, and she had to deal with the military, otherwise we would have the coup before. ” The army-installed government has not allowed Schraner Burgener to surrender since taking power.
She said she is in constant contact with China, which has “an important role in the region,” and does not want to see it destabilized. “So therefore, I always count on China – that it will make the right decisions for the people and stability in the region.”
What would be the right decisions?
“Well, I think it has to be several concerted steps by the international community, which can perhaps lead to a decision to change the leadership of the military into people who hopefully are more constructive and want a peaceful solution, “she said, citing the sanctions as a good thing.
While the coup left Myanmar in a civil war, Schraner Burgener said there was a positive outcome.
The majority Bamar ethnicity – also known as Burmese – and ethnic minorities have “a better understanding of each other”, she said, and “there is more unity in the country”.
She said that the ethnic minorities helped those fleeing, gave them shelter and she already hears from the Bamar “that they are really sorry that they did not help (…) the Rohingyas, more in the past”.
If Myanmar can return to a democratic path, said Schraner Burgener, she hopes that in the next five to ten years the country will have a multi-ethnic government where minorities are protected by law, citizenship law and the constitution are reformed, “and that we have a federal structure in the country where everyone has the same right.”