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Myanmar: ‘Significant action’ needed by Security Council to prevent ‘bloodbath’ 

A vigil takes place in Macau, China, in support of the government of Myanmar, opposing the military coup.
Unsplash/Macau Photo Agency
A vigil takes place in Macau, China, in support of the government of Myanmar, opposing the military coup.

Myanmar: ‘Significant action’ needed by Security Council to prevent ‘bloodbath’ 

Peace and Security

Widespread, systemic attacks on civilians in Myanmar orchestrated by leaders of the military coup, demand a “firm, unified and resolute international response”, UN Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said on Wednesday. 

As the world watches in horror as Myanmar's military continues to defy calls, including by UN Security Council, to end fundamental human rights violations and “return to the path of democracy”, she told a closed session of the Council that more than 520 people have been killed since the coup began, adding that “the urgency for a solution to this crisis could not be clearer”. 

On 1 February, following a general election in which Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, the military seized full control of the country, imprisoning elected leaders, and declared a year-long state of emergency, which triggered massive protests. 

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On Saturday, Armed Forces Day, security forces turned against their own citizens, brutally killing 100 people, including children, both on the streets and in their homes, said the Special Envoy.  

Devastating repercussions 

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, she had warned ambassadors in a briefing earlier this month, that the crisis was rapidly unravelling an already fragile public health sector and risking multiple emergencies. 

The UN envoy explained that lives that could be saved under normal circumstances were being lost, a banking collapse “appears imminent”, and shockwaves to businesses have “toppled the supply chain while fundamentally impacting the labour force”. 

“Hard-won gains of the democratic transition and peace process are slipping away”, she added. 

Moreover, the military’s cruelty has prompted ethnic armed groups in Kayin and Kachin states, to denounce the coup, “increasing the possibility of civil war at an unprecedented scale”. 

And while vulnerable groups, including the Rohingya, will suffer most, “inevitably, the whole country is on the verge of spiralling into a failed State”, she cautioned. 

“Consider all available tools to take collective action and do what is right, what the people of Myanmar deserve and prevent a multi-dimensional catastrophe in the heart of Asia”, the UN envoy appealed to the Council. 

Military shuts down dialogue 

Noting that the most serious crimes and violations of international law appear to be “happening in plain sight”, Ms. Schraner Burgener raised concerns that they would become even bloodier.  

While mediation requires dialogue, she said that “Myanmar’s military has shut its doors to most of the world” and would only engage when they can contain the situation “through repression and terror”. 

“Military leaders have clearly shown they are not capable of managing the country”, the UN envoy, urging the Council to help restore civilian rule under the elected government, headed by President Win Myint and State Counsellor Suu Kyi.

Military leaders have clearly shown they are not capable of managing the country -- UN envoy 

Prevent bloodbath 

Though she remains open to dialogue, the UN official acknowledged that by waiting until they are ready to talk, “the ground situation will only worsen”, meaning “a bloodbath is imminent”. 

“We have stood by too long as patterns of human rights violations and most serious international crimes committed by the Myanmar military have reoccurred”, she said. “This Council must consider potentially significant action that can reverse the course of events in Myanmar”.  

Ms. Schraner Burgener concluded by reminding the Ambassadors that history will judge their inaction and urged them to overcome “caution and disagreement” while there is “still time to avoid the worst outcome”.