The UN chief calls the situation in Myanmar an “endless nightmare” for citizens and a threat to the security of the region.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Myanmar’s military government to immediately return to democracy, saying the current situation in the country was a threat to peace in the region.
Myanmar has spiraled into a bloody conflict since the army toppled the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year, killing thousands.
The escalation of the crisis dominated a summit of the regional bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has so far led unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed.
“The situation in Myanmar is a never-ending nightmare for the people and a threat to peace and security in the entire region,” Guterres told reporters on Saturday.
“I urge the Myanmar authorities to listen to their people, release political prisoners and get the democratic transition back on track immediately. That is the only path to stability and peace.”
In ASEAN, I condemned the appalling human rights situation in Myanmar and called on the country’s authorities to release all political prisoners and launch an inclusive process to return to democratic transition.
I also urged countries to develop a regional framework to protect refugees.
— Antonio Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 12, 2022
After meeting with ASEAN leaders, Guterres said it was vital that a peace plan agreed with the military government enter into force, but has so far not been implemented.
“The indiscriminate attacks on civilians are horrendous and heartbreaking,” he said.
The army has faced widespread armed opposition to his rule and has responded with brutal force.
More than 2,400 people have been killed in the last two years, according to the monitoring group Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, while the UN children’s agency estimates that a million people have been displaced.
In a reminder of the daily horrors facing the people of Myanmar, residents and the media on Friday accused the military government of burning houses and killing at least five civilians in a raid on a village in western Rakhine state.
ASEAN leaders prevented Myanmar’s military ruler, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, from attending the meeting due to spiraling violence in his country and amid frustration that the generals in Myanmar are not interested. in implementing a peace plan.
The group agreed to a “five-point consensus” with the military government in April last year aimed at ending the chaos in Myanmar, but the generals have so far ignored it.
Increasingly frustrated, ASEAN leaders tasked their foreign ministers on Friday with coming up with a concrete plan to implement the consensus.
They also gave their blessing to an ASEAN special envoy who met with opposition groups in Myanmar, a move that drew a furious response from the military government, which regards dissident groups as “terrorists.”
Western powers have imposed sanctions on the military government, but the violence has escalated in recent weeks, with deadly military airstrikes on civilian targets, including a school and a concert.
US President Joe Biden will use talks with ASEAN leaders later on Saturday to urge them to continue to pressure the military government to end the violence.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the president will “discuss how we can coordinate more closely to continue to impose costs and increase pressure on the board.”
The military government has justified its seizure of power by alleging fraud in the December 2020 general election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won overwhelmingly.
The generals have pledged to hold elections next year, but the United States and the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar have said there is no chance they will be free and fair.
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