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More than two years on, impact of Myanmar military coup ‘devastating’

A woman holds her six-month-old son in front of their small makeshift home in Yangon, Myanmar.
© UNICEF/Nyan Zay Htet
A woman holds her six-month-old son in front of their small makeshift home in Yangon, Myanmar.

More than two years on, impact of Myanmar military coup ‘devastating’

Peace and Security

Violence resulting from the brutal military coup is continuing inside Myanmar on an “alarming scale” the UN Special Envoy told a meeting of the General Assembly on Thursday.

Now in its third year, Noeleen Heyzer said that “the impact of the military takeover on the country and its people, has been devasting.”

She thanked Member States for renewing the resolution for the continuation of her mandate and support for an “all-stakeholder approach in promoting a Myanmar-led process, reflective of the will of the people”, to end the suffering and death.

Intensified violence

On 1 February, she said the military had extended its State of Emergency, and intensified the use of force to include more aerial bombing, the burning of civilian homes, and other “grave human rights violations to maintain its grip on power.”

She described the spread of Martial Law to 47 different townships, and the empowering of citizens deemed loyal to the regime, by allowing them to carry guns.

Atrocities, beheadings, and the mutilation of rebel fighters’ bodies have been recorded, together with escalating violence in ethnic areas.

“We just received reports that 28 civilians were killed by the military at a monastery in Southern Shan state this weekend.”

Implacable resistance

She said that despite the brutal repression, widespread and popular resistance continues, by any means possible, across much of Myanmar.

“A generation that benefited from Myanmar’s previous opening up, especially the youth, is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and many feeling they have no choice but to take up arms to fight military rule.

Heavy fighting has spread to areas previously unaffected by conflict, she added, putting more civilian lives at risk and further complicating humanitarian operations to save lives amid the fighting.

Collective punishment

She said a “four cuts” strategy put in place by the regime, “which seeks to block access to food, funds, information and recruits – continues to target civilians as collective punishment.”

Ms. Heyzer said the opposition National Unity Government was continuing to point to the brutality of military forces, while also warning resistance militias not to themselves, “perform inhumane acts.”

With both sides intent on prevailing by force, there is no prospect for a negotiated settlement”, The Special Envoy added.

17.6 million need assistance

The conflict has meant humanitarian needs have risen steadily, with 17.6 million Burmese in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 1.6 million internally displaced, and an estimated 55,000 civilian buildings destroyed since the coup.

She said it was critical, that a Myanmar-led process, reflective of all voices – especially women, youth and minorities – be allowed to decide the country’s future

Sustainable solutions for the Rohingya people must be built into the design of a peaceful, inclusive and democratic Myanmar”, she added. “Their voices have to be integral to decisions about their own future.”

Rohingya refugees

She reminded ambassadors that more than five years since the forced mass exodus across the border into Bangladesh by the mainly-Muslim Rohingya, the hundreds of thousands of refugees continue to face extreme hardships.

Earlier this month, another massive fire ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, affecting 15,000 and the World Food Programme (WFP) has announced it needs to reduce rations for refugees this month due to a severe funding shortfall.

Ms. Heyzer urged Member States to support the 2023 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, which stands at $876 million, adding that “now is not the time for donor fatigue.”

‘Unprecedented solidarity’

She concluded by saying that despite tragedy and deep uncertainty in Myanmar, “there is unprecedented solidarity that has emerged in the country.

“I know that this General Assembly will renew its commitment supporting the will of the people, including the Rohingya, to build a peaceful, just and democratic union of Myanmar for all.”