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Will seek to unite world, reverse Myanmar coup: Antonio Guterres

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged that the United Nations will do everything it can to unite the international community and create conditions for the military coup in Myanmar to be reversed.

Speaking to newsmen here, Antonio Guterres said it is “absolutely essential” to carry out the Security Council’s calls for a return to democracy, respect for the results of the November parliamentary elections, and release of all people detained by the military, “which means the reversal of the coup that took place.”

"It is absolutely essential that what the Security Council has decided to express clearly, that all people should be released and that the results of the election should be respected, which means the reversal of the coup that took place. It is absolutely essential that that moves forward, and for that, I believe, we need to have all possible areas of pressure to make it happen," said Guterres.

The UN Chief said "Our Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener today had a first contact in which she expressed clearly our position to the Deputy military commander Vice Gen. Soe Win."

He said she was also in contact with the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries.

Brunei, which chairs the 10-nation regional group, including Myanmar, issued a statement Monday noting the bloc’s principles include “the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The statement encouraged “the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar,” but it made no mention of any action by ASEAN to take the lead in returning Myanmar to a democratic path.

On Friday, the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia expressed concern about the coup and asked ASEAN foreign ministers to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.

“Indonesia and Malaysia take the political situation in Myanmar seriously,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta. “This is a step backwards in Myanmar’s democratic transition. We fear the political unrest in Myanmar could disturb the security and stability in this region.”

Widodo also said both countries remain concerned about the Rohingya issue, saying all ASEAN members must respect the organization’s charter “particularly rule of law, good governance, democracy, human rights, and constitutional government.”

ASEAN’s members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Secretary General said "we are in contact with the members of the Security Council and we will do everything we can to make the international community united in making sure that conditions are created for this coup to be reversed."

Schraner Burgener also reiterated her call for the immediate release of all detainees and emphasized the need for progress on the safe and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.

Myanmar’s military announced Monday on the eve of the meeting of new Parliament that it will take power for one year, accusing leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government of not investigating allegations of voter fraud in the November elections, where its party did poorly.

It detained Suu Kyi, whose party swept that vote, and other lawmakers, activists, journalists and members of civil society. The election commission had refuted the military’s allegations.

In its first statement following the military’s takeover on Thursday, the Security Council “stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”

It also “emphasised the need for the continued support of the democratic transition in Myanmar.”

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, when the military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group. The security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.

A year ago, the U.N.’s top court, the International Court of Justice, ordered Myanmar to do all it can to prevent genocide against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

UN SC expresses ‘continued support’ for Myanmar’s democratic transition

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4: The UN Security Council issued a press statement on Thursday expressing “deep concern” over the military takeover in Myanmar, calling for the immediate release of the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and President Win Myint.

Security Council members “emphasized the need for the continued support of the democratic transition" inside the country, after a military junta was installed on Monday ending five years of civilian rule, announcing that it was taking power for the period of a year before fresh elections.

Thursday’s statement calls for the “immediate release of all those detained”, and stresses “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

On Wednesday, Ms. Suu Kyi was charged with the illegal possession of walkie-talkies, which were allegedly imported illegally, and remanded in custody. The military leadership has accused the democratically elected government of failing to investigate voter fraud allegations in recent elections that gave the governing National League for Democracy, a large majority.

The 15-member body is encouraging “the pursuance of dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”

The statement also expresses concern at the restrictions that have been put in place on civil society, journalists and other media workers, as well as calling for humanitarian access to “all people in need, including through the re-establishment of UN relief flights.”

Myanmar’s military rulers reportedly blocked access to Facebook across the country on Thursday, for several days, which news reports suggest is used by around half of Myanmar’s 54 million citizens, as a primary source of information. The social media giant has issued a statement urging the authorities to restore connectivity.

The Council statement also reiterates the need to address “the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine state”, which saw hundreds of thousands of mainly-Muslim Rohingya flee for their lives following a brutal military crackdown in 2017.

The statement calls on conditions to be established for “the safe, voluntary, sustainable, and dignified return of displaced persons.”

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Myanmar”, the statement concluded.

UN Chief condemns coup in Myanmar

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1: The Secretary-General strongly has condemned the detention of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders on the eve of the opening session of Myanmar’s new Parliament.

He expressed his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military. These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar, he added.

The UN Chief said the 8 November 2020 general elections provided a strong mandate to the National League for Democracy (NLD), reflecting the clear will of the people of Myanmar to continue on the hard-won path of democratic reform.

The Secretary-General urged the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar and adhere to democratic norms, with any differences to be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

"All leaders must act in the greater interest of Myanmar’s democratic reform, engaging in meaningful dialogue, refraining from violence and fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The Secretary-General reaffirms the unwavering support of the United Nations to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, remains actively engaged on the issue, according to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General. She has spoken to Myanmar interlocutors outside the country. She is trying to connect with leaders in Naypyitaw, the capital, but communications with the Myanmar capital are very difficult at this moment.

For her part, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that she is gravely concerned about the situation in the country, echoing the Secretary-General’s call for the military leadership to respect the outcome of the elections.

She is also alarmed by reports that at least 45 people have been detained – including parliamentarians under confinement. She called for their immediate release and noted that there are also disturbing reports of journalists being harassed or attacked.

Meanwhile, the spokesman said "our colleagues in the UN country team on the ground in Myanmar are also following the situation closely with deep concern, especially in light of the need to prevent and respond to the ongoing pandemic."

He said "they are working to ensure that the recent events do not adversely impact the most vulnerable people in Myanmar. The UN team has supported Myanmar’s COVAX application, as well as the national COVID-19 and vaccination plans by assessing the country’s readiness and mapping the cold chain capacity."

Myanmar has so far received 1.5 million doses of vaccine under a programme that started last week. Some 70,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated so far in 14 states and regions.

The team in the country has repurposed nearly $100 million to address the impact of the pandemic, including to protect the most vulnerable groups.

 

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