The UN special envoy for Myanmar has warned that the February military takeover has led to armed conflict and that if power is not returned to the people in a democratic manner, the country will “go in the lead. of a failed state ”.
Christine Schraner Burgener told a UN press conference on Thursday that the conflict between the military, which took power on February 1, and civilians and ethnic minorities is escalating in many parts of the country .
“The repression of the army has left more than 1,180 dead,” she said. “The army uses a range of tactics against civilian populations, including burnt villages, looting of property, mass arrests, torture and execution of prisoners, gender-based violence and random artillery fire in areas residential.
Ms. Schraner Burgener said the military was carrying out cleanup operations in Chin and several other states and fighting continues in Kachin and Shan states, “so across the country we have a huge scale of violence.” .
She said the situation is reminiscent of the pattern of operations that the army, known as the Tatmadaw, used against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state in 1997. The Rohingya were first targeted. by Myanmar security forces in 1997-98 and more than 700,000 fled to neighboring countries. Bangladesh after a military crackdown in 2017.
Ms Schraner Burgener said the movement against the military is now “increasingly militarized”, with the so-called national unity government formed by supporters of the overthrown democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi seeking to mobilize a greater number of People’s Defense Forces and calling for “a People’s Defense War”.
“Clearly, in the absence of international action, violence has been justified as a last resort,” she said.
For five decades, Myanmar languished under strict military rule that has led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, leading to Suu Kyi assuming the leadership of the 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and investing in the country.
The military takeover earlier this year followed the November elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won overwhelmingly and the military contests as fraudulent.
Ms. Schraner Burgener warned that “the overall situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate sharply”.
She said the conflict must be resolved and “power must be returned to the people in a democratic manner,” but the military has failed to respond to her proposal for an inclusive national dialogue and appears determined to continue operations.
In the past, the Tatmadaw used violence against armed ethnic groups or against the Rohingya but not against the Bamar Buddhist ethnic majority, but this is now happening on a large scale in the center of the country, she said.
Ms Schraner Burgener said she would not call the current situation a civil war as it is not “international legal terminology”, but she said that with the spread of violence across Myanmar, it s it is an “internal armed conflict”.
“If this situation continues, then I would say we would have a full-fledged internal armed conflict,” she said.
Looking at the dire situation on the ground, she said, the number of internally displaced people has increased from 370,000 to 589,000 since the military takeover, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from ‘one million to three million, and the health care and banking system collapsed.
But unlike the 1998 coup where people were killed or put in jail or gave up, and the Tatmadaw took over and conducted business as usual, “people, in my opinion, didn’t will not give up ”now, she said.
“People continue to resist. They will not go back to work. They will continue to use violence.
Ms Schraner Burgener said the UN had heard that 4,000 troops had defected, a figure it cannot verify, “but even if it’s 3,000, it’s a pretty huge number.”
Every day, she added, she receives messages from people on the ground saying that they “would rather die than accept a new military dictatorship”.
She said targeted sanctions against the Tatmadaw can have an effect, especially if adopted by more countries.
Regarding the recognition of the military junta, Ms. Schraner Burgener said that the General Assembly’s nine-member credentials committee, which is expected to meet in November, will decide whether it will take over the seat of the UN Myanmar currently detained by government-appointed Ambassador Suu Kyi.
“What is very important now on the part of the international community, but also of the UN, is that we do not give any signals or that we make movements which could be perceived as accepting” the Board of Directors of ‘State of the military junta that rules the country, she said. noted.
“We want to respect the will of the people,” she said, noting that this was done last November when Suu Kyi’s party won 80% of the vote.
Ms Schraner Burgener said the decision by the Association of 10 Southeast Asian Nations not to invite junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to its next summit is “a clear signal that ‘they also agreed together that the current situation is unacceptable “.