CAMEROON – The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar called Friday for urgent Security Council action to reverse Myanmar’s military coup, saying about 50 peaceful protesters were killed in the military’s worst crackdowns this week and scores more were seriously injured.
Christine Schraner Burgener said in her briefing to a closed council meeting released by the U.N. that council unity and “robust” action is critical “in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions.”
“We must denounce the actions by the military,” she said. “It is critical that this council is resolute and coherent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results.”
The Feb. 1 military coup ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi after her National League for Democracy Party won 82% of the vote in November elections. The military contends there was ballot fraud, but the electoral commission upheld the results.
Schraner Burgener, a veteran Swiss diplomat, said she hopes to visit Myanmar and use her “good offices” to find a peaceful solution through dialogue. She announced that she plans to visit countries in the region “to help promote greater international coherence” if COVID-19 restrictions permit.
The Security Council took no immediate action. Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft presidential statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution.
The U.N. envoy stressed that a peaceful solution requires the immediate release of Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
Schraner Burgener reiterated an earlier appeal to the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime that has been forcefully imposed,” stressing that “nothing but chaos has since followed.”
The U.N. has received confirmed reports that many of those who died were killed by live ammunition, she said.
“There are visual recordings of the military snipers in shooting positions aiming at unarmed protesters, as well as indiscriminate shooting into the crowds by military and police personnel, in various parts of Myanmar,” she said.
As of March 2, Schraner Burgener said the U.N. human rights office in Geneva “is aware of around 1,000 people who are either known to be in detention or unaccounted for after having been arbitrarily detained since the coup.”
“Journalists are increasingly targeted, including specific assaults aimed at them at the protest scenes,” she said. Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw, whose dramatic arrest by police using a chokehold before handcuffing him was captured on video, is among them.
Schraner Burgener urged council members to hear “the voices of the people of Myanmar” and support Kyaw Moe Tun, the country’s U.N. ambassador who was terminated by the military after denouncing the coup in a dramatic speech to the General Assembly. The military appointed his deputy, who resigned a day later and Tun has said he remains Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N.
“Your unity is needed more than ever on Myanmar,” Schraner Burgener told the often divided council, calling the people of Myanmar, including civil servants, “the real heroes and protectors of the nation’s democratic progress.”
“But the hope they have placed in the United Nations and its membership is waning,” she warned.
Schraner Burgener said the coup has affected the labor force, investment, stability, connectivity and security, and she added that the current situation “is moving towards an acute humanitarian crisis which will first hit the poorest section of the country."
Schraner Burgener did not call for sanctions and they could only be imposed in a resolution supported by the council’s five veto-wielding members, including Myanmar’s neighbor and friend China, which generally opposes sanctions.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the situation has deteriorated since the council issued a press statement on Feb. 4 calling for a return to democracy and the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees. So members are now considering “the next steps,” she said.
Woodward stressed the importance of the council being able “to speak with one voice” in a new measure that “can call for an end to violence, the release of those arbitrarily detained and a return to democracy.”
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun is following developments “with great concern,” China’s U.N. Mission said, and is calling for differences to be resolved peacefully and continuing efforts “to promote democratic transition in an orderly manner.”
“Under the current circumstances, all parties should exercise utmost calm and restraint, refrain from intensifying tensions or using violence, and prevent any incident of bloodshed,” the mission quoted Zhang as elaborating on China’s position.
Zhang said China supports the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations playing a bigger role and supports Shraner Burgener’s mediation efforts with all parties in Myanmar “for the de-escalation of the situation,” China’s U.N. Mission said.