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Myanmar military faces demands for democracy

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – Strong and united demand for democracy by the people of Myanmar has created “unexpected difficulties” for the military in consolidating power after the February 1 coup and threatens to cripple the administration of the nation, the UN envoy for the country said Friday.

Christine Schraner Burgener said in an address to a closed-door Security Council meeting obtained by The Associated Press that her talks in the region had “compounded” her concern about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar across the board. She pointed to an upsurge in fighting in ethnic areas, more poor people losing their jobs, officials refusing to work in protest against the coup and a crisis of family brewing in and around the main town of Yangon “pushed hard” for food, going into debt and trying to survive.

The UN special envoy spoke by video from Bangkok where she returned after traveling to Jakarta to be on the sidelines of the April 24 meeting of the Association of 10 South Asian Members -Is known as ASEAN, which includes Myanmar and was followed by the military commander of the junta. , General Min Aung Hlaing.

Schraner Burgener said she had met with the ASEAN commander-in-chief on the fringes and that they had agreed to “keep the details of the exchange under wraps to allow frank and open discussions to continue,” but assured to the advice that she had “amplified” her statements. members approved.

The Security Council strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the death of hundreds of civilians, called on the army “to show the utmost restraint” and “on all sides to refrain from any action. violence ”and“ reiterated the need to fully respect human rights and to continue dialogue and reconciliation. “

Based on her meeting with General Hlaing, Schraner Burgener told the council that she again requested to visit Myanmar on Thursday. His previous requests were turned down by the military, who said the timing was not right.

“Over the past three years, I have built constructive relationships and trust with key players in Myanmar and this would allow me to move directly to substantive exchanges on how the current stalemate could be resolved, if l ‘access to the country was possible,’ she said. “My presence could also help ease tensions.”

The envoy said she also had “important discussions” with the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand as well as with ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi, calling these meetings “a testament to the UN’s commitment to support ASEAN.” and ensure complementarity. “

Schraner Burgener said she plans to stay in the region in the coming weeks and will keep in close contact with ASEAN members to support “the swift and full implementation” of its “five-point consensus. points ”on the Myanmar crisis. He calls for an immediate end to the violence, for a dialogue between all parties concerned, for the dialogue process to be mediated by an ASEAN special envoy, for the provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels. and a visit to Myanmar by the association’s special envoy to meet with all parties concerned.

Vietnam’s Ambassador to the UN Dang Dinh Quy, the current board chairman, said members were considering a new statement of support for ASEAN, but the meeting ended without any action.

The February 1 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’s rise to power in the 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and investing in the country. The coup took place after the November elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won overwhelmingly, and military contests.

Since the ASEAN summit, protests have continued in many parts of Myanmar against the junta, as have arrests and beatings by security forces, despite an apparent deal from Hlaing to end the violence. . Many protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the ASEAN meeting, especially its failure to demand the release of political leaders. Suu Kyi was arrested in the coup and is one of some 3,400 people still detained.

Schraner Burgener told the council: “The release of all political prisoners and other detainees as well as full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms will be paramount.”

She warned that “ongoing reports of lethal force, arrests and ill-treatment since then risk undermining the momentum generated by the ASEAN leaders’ meeting.”

“Confidence-building measures are urgently needed,” she said, expressing hope that her visit will take place “as this could help provide space to move forward on points of consensus”.

Schraner Burgener said the deaths were increasing every day, citing the latest figures from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners that more than 756 people have been killed and 3,450 arrested, charged or sentenced.

The United Nations estimates that around 20,000 people have fled their homes and remain internally displaced in Myanmar, while nearly 10,000 have fled to neighboring countries, the UN envoy said, and the World Food Program says that pre-existing poverty, COVID-19 and political crisis are likely. to bring an additional 3.4 million people to go hungry in the next six months.

“The common aspiration for democracy has united the people of Myanmar across religious, ethnic and community divisions like never before,” said Schraner Burgener. “Such a strong unity created unexpected difficulties for the military in consolidating power and stabilizing the coup.”

She said security forces intimidated and arrested protesting health workers in an attempt to get them back to work.

“The general state administration could risk shutting down as the pro-democracy movement continues despite the continued use of lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture as part of military repression,” he said. said Schraner Burgener.

In light of the current circumstances, she said, “I have observed resounding political will in my engagements with regional leaders to end the violence, enable a dialogue involving all parties while immediately addressing the terrible humanitarian and socio-economic implications of the crisis. ”

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