Update Report No. 3: Myanmar
Expected Council Action
On 18 November the Council is expected to be briefed in consultations on recent developments in Myanmar byVijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, who has also served as the Secretary-General’s acting advisor on Myanmar.
At this stage it is unlikely that the Council will take action on Myanmar.
Key Recent Developments
On 7 November Myanmar held its first election in twenty years. Though the final results have not yet been declared, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the proxy party of the ruling military government and party of current Prime Minister U Thein Sein, claims to have won 80 percent of the seats in parliament.
The election has been criticised by the Secretary-General as “insufficiently inclusive, participatory, and transparent”. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has dubbed the election as “deeply flawed”, as certain opposition parties were excluded from the process.
Council members have expressed differing views on the validity of the election. US President Barack Obama criticised the election in Myanmar, saying it had been neither free nor fair, and the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, deemed the election as “the return to power of a brutal regime”. China’s ministry of foreign affairs characterised the election as “peaceful and successful” and a positive step in the transition to an elected government. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations welcomed the election “as a significant step forward “in the implementation of the seven-point Roadmap for Democracy”.
Following the election, on 8 November, violent clashes broke out between ethnic Karen rebels and Myanmar troops, reportedly causing some 15,000 people to flee into northern Thailand. On 12 November the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that most had returned to Myanmar.
On 13 November, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released, after spending most of the last two decades under house arrest. The Secretary-General urged Myanmar to release the remaining 2,200 or so political prisoners.
On 22 October, cyclone Giri struck Myanmar, claiming the lives of at least 45 people and causing the destruction of at least 20,380 homes and thousands of acres of crops and fish breeding ponds. Currently, 100,000 people remain homeless as relief efforts by government authorities, UN agencies and NGOs are under way.
Another issue is the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Related to that is the issue of the remaining political prisoners in Myanmar.
Other issues of continuing concern are potential security risks arising from possible unrest among ethnic groups, highlighted by the recent clashes following the election and exacerbated by the humanitarian impact of cyclone Giri.
The most likely option for the Council is to take no action following the briefing.
A possible option is to issue a presidential or a press statement expressing concern over the election process and the issue of remaining political prisoners.
Though the UK’s position is supported by some Council members, Myanmar is not an issue of high priority for many of them.
China is generally not eager to have Myanmar discussed by the Council but appears to have agreed to this briefing though it is unlikely to support any action being taken. It continues to hold the position that the issues at hand are internal in nature rather than threats to international peace and security.
Selected Press Statements