The United Nations envoy for Myanmar said Thursday that the prospect for a political settlement to that country’s military takeover is not likely.
“With both sides intent on prevailing by force, there is no prospect for a negotiated settlement,” Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer told the General Assembly in a briefing on the situation.
Myanmar has been mired in chaos and violence since the military rejected the November 2020 election results and overthrew the democratically elected civilian government on February 1, 2021.
Since then, rights groups say thousands of civilians, including many children, have been killed or arrested in a crackdown. The military has also arrested, tried and sentenced de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and other high-ranking officials from the ousted National League for Democracy party.
Heyzer said violence is rising by the military junta, the opposition People’s Defense Force — also known as the PDF — and ethnic armed groups.
“On 1 February, the military extended the state of emergency and intensified its use of force, including aerial bombing, the burning of civilian structures and other grave human rights violations, to maintain its grip on power,” she said.
The special envoy detailed other alleged military atrocities, including recent reports of the beheadings and mutilation of PDF fighters and a massacre days ago of 28 civilians at a monastery in southern Shan state.
In response, she said, the resistance is using both nonviolent and violent means.
“A generation that benefited from Myanmar’s previous opening up, especially the youth, is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and many feeling they have no choice but to take up arms to fight military rule,” the special envoy said.
Myanmar’s military government denied reports that its troops were responsible for the mass killing of civilians at the monastery, instead suggesting pro-democracy resistance groups were responsible.
Heyzer urged the international community to send a strong signal that violence must end and and that those seeking a way forward to a peaceful future must be supported.
The overall situation in the country continues to deteriorate, with martial law being extended to 47 townships and humanitarian needs rising. The U.N. says 1.6 million people are internally displaced and 17.6 million need aid inside the country – compared with just 1 million before the military coup.
Early in the crisis, regional bloc Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, put forward a five-point plan that included ending the violence and starting a national dialogue, but Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing has not implemented it.
Heyzer told reporters that while all agree that ASEAN will take the lead in resolving the crisis, she had made it clear that the five-point consensus must have concrete steps that need to be implemented with a timeline, and that there should be greater accountability if that’s not done.
“When I went to Naypyidaw to speak with the senior general, I stressed what some of those concrete actions could be: i.e., to stop aerial bombings, to stop the burning of civilian infrastructure, to put a moratorium on executions, to release political prisoners.”
She said ASEAN cannot do this all alone and there needs to be a wider regional approach as well as “stronger, coherent, strategic and coordinated international action.”
Indonesia is the current chair of the 10-member ASEAN. Heyzer said she and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi are in close cooperation. The two envoys briefed the U.N. Security Council earlier this week in a private meeting.
Indonesia’s ambassador said his government has been engaging with all stakeholders to better understand their views and positions and to find common ground.
“Our immediate goal is to end violence, ensure greater access for humanitarian assistance and pave the way for inclusive national dialogue,” Ambassador Arrmanatha Nasir told the General Assembly. “ASEAN is united that the Five PCs [the association's Five-Point Consensus, its peace plan for Myanmar] remain our primary and valid references to addressing this crisis in Myanmar.”
Myanmar continues to be represented at the United Nations by the National League for Democracy’s envoy, as the junta has not been internationally recognized as the country’s government.
Envoy Kyaw Moe Tun said his country is at a critical crossroads where it will either become a permanent military dictatorship or a democratic state.
“We hope that the international community, in particular our neighbors, will not pave the way to permanent military dictatorship,” he said. “On the other hand, there is a future the Myanmar people want and are fighting for. It is a democratic Myanmar with minorities’ rights protected and self-determination granted under a federal system.”
He appealed to the international community to stop the flow of arms, jet fuel and funds to the junta, to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the people, to protect Myanmar refugees and asylum-seekers, and to end the military’s impunity by supporting accountability either through the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.
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