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Myanmar faces possibility of major civil war

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN special envoy for Myanmar warned on Wednesday that the country faces the possibility of civil war “on an unprecedented scale” and urged the Security Council to UN to consider “potentially significant action” to reverse the military coup of February 1. and restore democracy.

Christine Schraner Burgener did not specify which action she considered significant, but painted a dire picture of military repression in her virtual briefing to the council obtained by the Associated Press in which she also warned that the country “is at stake. edge of the spiral. in a faulty state. “

“It could happen under our watch,” she said, “and failing to prevent a further escalation of atrocities will cost the world much more in the long run than investing in prevention now, especially by Myanmar’s neighbors. and the region at large. ”

Schraner Burgener urged the council “to consider all the tools available to take collective action” and to do what the people of Myanmar deserve – “to avoid a multidimensional disaster in the heart of Asia”.

The coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that has led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating with Aung San Suu Kyi coming to power after the 2015 election, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and investing in the country.

At the virtual meeting, closed to foreigners, Schraner Burgener denounced the assassination and arrest of unarmed protesters seeking to restore democracy. She cited figures from the Myanmar Political Prisoner Assistance Association that as of Wednesday some 2,729 people had been arrested, charged or convicted since the coup and about 536 had been killed.

On March 10, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement – a step below a resolution – calling for the overthrow of the coup, strongly condemning violence against peaceful protesters and calling for “the utmost restraint. From the military. He stressed the need to maintain “democratic institutions and processes” and called for the immediate release of detained government leaders, including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

The statement is weaker than the original draft released by the UK, which reportedly condemned the coup and threatened “possible action under the Charter of the United Nations” – UN language for sanctions – “If the situation deteriorates further”.

Schraner Burgener told council members she fears grave international crimes and violations of international law by the military “will get more bloody as the commander-in-chief appears determined to consolidate his illegal grip on power through the military. strength”.

“Mediation requires dialogue, but the Myanmar military has closed its doors to most countries around the world,” she said. “It seems that the military would only engage when they felt capable of containing the situation through repression and terror.”

“If we only wait until the moment when they are ready to speak,” warned Schraner Burgener that a “bloodbath is imminent”.

The UN envoy called on those with access to the military, known as Tatmadaw, to let them know about the damage to Myanmar’s reputation and the threat it poses not only to its citizens but also for the security of neighboring countries.

“A robust international response requires a unified regional position, especially with neighboring countries which are leveraging their influence for stability in Myanmar,” said Schraner Burgener, adding that she was planning to hopefully visit the region. next week.

Schraner Burgener said that intensifying fighting in Kayin State has caused thousands to flee to neighboring Thailand and that the conflict in Kachin State with the Kachin Independence Army near the Chinese border has intensified “to its highest point this year”.

Ethnic armed groups on Myanmar’s eastern and western borders also increasingly denounce “the brutality of the military,” she said.

The opposition of ethnic armed groups to “the cruelty of the military … (increases) the possibility of civil war on an unprecedented scale,” warned Schraner Burgener.

“Already vulnerable groups in need of humanitarian assistance, including ethnic minorities and the Rohingya, will suffer the most,” she said, “but inevitably the whole country is on the verge of falling into a failed state. “

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