UN chief seeks ‘unified strategy’ on Myanmar

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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has reiterated his urgent plea to the global community on Thursday, urging them to collaborate on developing a unified strategy to resolve the escalating crisis in Myanmar.

Guterres called for an international response during a press conference held on Thursday before attending summit meetings with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The UN official stressed the need to increase financial assistance to previous levels in order to empower the international organization to address what he referred to as an “immense tragedy.” He noted that the situation in Myanmar has continued to deteriorate since his meeting with ASEAN leaders during a summit in 2022. Guterres once again called upon the government, which is under military control, to promptly release all political prisoners and facilitate a return to democratic governance.

Myanmar’s military seized control of the government on February 1, 2021, overthrowing the elected administration of Aung San Suu Kyi. This led to the arrest of Suu Kyi and other prominent members of her National League for Democracy party, which had won a significant mandate in the November 2020 general election. Security forces used violent means to suppress widespread opposition to the military takeover, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians and the detention of thousands of peaceful protesters. This brutal crackdown sparked armed resistance in many parts of the country.

In August 2017, tensions in Myanmar boiled over, particularly concerning the discrimination against Rohingya Muslims in the predominantly Buddhist country including the denial of citizenship and other basic rights to the Rohingya population.

The situation escalated when Myanmar’s military initiated a campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to attacks by a Rohingya militant group on police and border guards. This campaign led to the displacement of over 700,000 Rohingya people who fled to Bangladesh, where they still reside in refugee camps. Allegations of mass rapes, killings, and the destruction of thousands of homes by Myanmar troops during this campaign further exacerbated the crisis.

In January 2020, the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body within the United Nations, issued an order directing Myanmar to take all necessary actions to prevent the occurrence of genocide against the Rohingya population.

The United Nations Secretary-General expressed deep concerns about the deteriorating political, humanitarian, and human rights situation in Myanmar, with a particular focus on Rakhine State and the dire conditions faced by a large number of refugees.

The U.N. chief lent his support to a five-point peace plan proposed by ASEAN leaders in 2021. This plan advocates for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and the initiation of dialogue among various stakeholders, including the ruling military leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters.

However, ASEAN leaders jointly acknowledged that their approach had not yielded any progress in Myanmar. Despite this setback, the leaders of the ten-nation bloc decided to stick with the plan and maintain their stance of barring Myanmar’s military officials and their representatives from participating in ASEAN’s high-level summits.

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