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UN envoy urges action to prevent Myanmar 'civil war'
This handout from the Karen Information Center taken and released to AFP on March 31, 2021 shows ethnic Karen people taking part in an anti-military coup demonstration in Hlaingbwe township, in eastern Myanmar's Karen state.
AFP/KAREN INFORMATION CENTER

UN envoy urges action to prevent Myanmar 'civil war'

(Agence France-Presse) - April 1, 2021 - 8:27am

UNITED NATIONS, United States — The UN envoy on Myanmar implored the Security Council to take action Wednesday in the Asian nation's escalating crisis, warning of the risk of civil war and an imminent "bloodbath" as the junta violently represses pro-democracy protests.

More than 520 people have died in daily demonstrations since the military overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, halting Myanmar's decade-old experiment in democracy.

"I appeal to this Council to consider all available tools to take collective action and do what is right, what the people of Myanmar deserve and prevent a multi-dimensional catastrophe," special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener told the closed-door session, according to remarks obtained by AFP.

She said she remained open for dialogue with the junta but added: "If we wait only for when they are ready to talk, the ground situation will only worsen. A bloodbath is imminent."

Barbara Woodward, the UN envoy from Britain, which requested the meeting, told reporters the Security Council was "united in its condemnation" and was discussing "a range of measures at our disposal."

But China, considered Myanmar's main ally, ruled out sanctions. 

"One-sided pressure and calling for sanctions or other coercive measures will only aggravate tension and confrontation and further complicate the situation, which is by no means constructive," China's ambassador, Zhang Jun, told the meeting, according to a statement.

The session came after Suu Kyi's legal team earlier Wednesday said the ousted leader appeared to be in good health despite two months of detention.

Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen in public since she was deposed but a member of her legal team, Min Min Soe, was summoned to a police station in the capital Naypyidaw for a video meeting with her.

Suu Kyi is facing a raft of criminal charges, and conviction could see her barred from office for life.

Emergency session

The coup and the junta's subsequent actions have triggered international condemnation.

Britain called for the emergency meeting after the military dramatically ramped up its use of lethal force against protesters over the weekend.

In another violent escalation, Myanmar's military Saturday launched the first air strikes in Karen state in 20 years after a rebel group seized a military base — raising fears of a return to armed conflict in the ethnically diverse nation.

"The military's cruelty is too severe and many (armed ethnic fighters) are taking clear stances of opposition, increasing the possibility of civil war at an unprecedented scale," Burgener said.

"Failure to prevent further escalation of atrocities will cost the world so much more in the longer term than investing now in prevention, especially by Myanmar's neighbors and the wider region."

Zhang, the Chinese ambassador, said he wanted Myanmar to "restore peace, stability and constitutional order as early as possible and continue to steadily advance democratic transition."

He also called for the protection of foreign businesses — a key concern for China, which has seen dozens of its factories torched amid furor against Beijing.

Earlier, a group of ousted MPs from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), who have been working underground against the junta, said they would form "a new civilian government" in the first week of April, without giving further details.

Mounting bloodshed

World powers have repeatedly condemned the violent crackdown on dissent and hit junta figures with sanctions, but so far the pressure has not swayed the generals.

The US State Department has ordered the departure of non-essential diplomatic staff and their families from Myanmar, and Japan — a top donor to the country — has halted new aid payments.

As well as imposing targeted sanctions, the US also has suspended a trade pact with Myanmar.

Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, raised the possibility of action if the military does not step down.

If "they continue the attacks that they were making on civilian populations, then we have to look at how we might do more," she told reporters.

The mounting bloodshed has also angered some of Myanmar's 20 or so armed ethnic groups, who control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.

Three of them — the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army — on Wednesday looked set to join the protesters' fight. 

Brigadier General Tar Bhone Kyaw from the TNLA told AFP that all three would end their ceasefire with the military. 

"If they continue to kill the people, we have no reason to extend unilateral ceasefire with them," he said.

Two other outfits — the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) — have already stepped up attacks on military and police in recent days.

MYANMAR UNITED NATIONS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 10, 2021 - 11:10am

Follow this thread for updates on the situation in Myanmar, where a coup may be happening after de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials have reportedly been detained by the military.

Photo: Military officers wearing facemasks who serve as members of Myanmar's parliament leave after a session at the Assembly of the Union (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) in Naypyidaw on March 10, 2020. AFP/Ye Aung Thu

April 10, 2021 - 11:10am

The Milk Tea Alliance has formally sent an open letter to various United Nations and ASEAN bodies and their member-states to demand that they act firmly and immediately to address the human rights, humanitarian, and political crisis that is currently unfolding in Myanmar.

“Deadly crackdowns of pro-democracy protests by the Myanmar military have now turned into abominable slaughters of innocent civilians in their own homes. The military has used heavy weaponry, hand grenades, RPGs, and air strikes on unarmed civilians. The situation is becoming very alarming as violence escalates each day. And yet, the feeble response from the international community has been downright disappointing.” Me Me Khant, a young Myanmar poet and activist who is part of the Milk Tea Alliance, shares.

April 9, 2021 - 2:46pm

The UN's special envoy for Myanmar is to embark on an Asian tour to step up diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis, as the death toll from the junta's crackdown on dissent passed 600 on Friday.

The push by Christine Schraner Burgener comes amid mounting international concern at events in Myanmar, rocked by daily protests since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power on February 1.

Burgener will start her trip in Thailand and will also visit China, though exact details and timings for her trip have not been confirmed. —  AFP

April 8, 2021 - 3:08pm

Britain's foreign secretary condemns Myanmar's junta Thursday, after the military attaché seized the country's embassy in London.

"We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday," Dominic Raab tweets.

April 7, 2021 - 2:25pm

A group representing Myanmar's ousted civilian government said Wednesday it has gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the junta including torture and extrajudicial killings.

The country has been in turmoil since the army deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with nearly 600 people killed in a crackdown on anti-coup protests.

The Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — a group of MPs from Suu Kyi's party — said its lawyers would meet UN investigators to discuss alleged atrocities committed by the junta.

"CRPH has received 180,000 items of evidence. This evidence shows widescale abuses of human rights by the military," the group said in a statement.

They include more than 540 extrajudicial executions, 10 deaths of prisoners in custody, torture, illegal detentions and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protests, the statement said. — AFP

April 7, 2021 - 1:55pm

A group representing Myanmar's ousted civilian government says it has gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the junta including torture and extrajudicial killings.

The country has been in turmoil since the army deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with nearly 600 people killed in a crackdown on anti-coup protests.

The Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) -- a group of MPs from Suu Kyi's party -- says its lawyers would meet UN investigators to discuss alleged atrocities committed by the junta. — AFP

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