What's In Blue

Posted Tue 16 Apr 2013

Briefing by Special Advisor for Myanmar

This afternoon the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, is set to brief Council members in consultations on the situation in Myanmar. Nambiar is expected to report on his 21-25 March visit to the country. It appears that the UK requested this afternoon’s briefing in order to keep the Council abreast of developments in Myanmar.

The Special Advisor has made five visits to Myanmar since he last briefed the Council on 20 June 2012. In his most recent visit he was received by President U Thein Sein, and held discussions with senior ministers and government, army and police officials, as well as civil society representatives and religious leaders. His visit took place in the wake of two days of sectarian violence in Meiktila, the worst communal unrest in Myanmar since the clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State in late 2012. Media reports suggest that at least 40 people were killed in Meiktila, thousands were displaced and many homes and mosques were destroyed.

Council members are likely to be interested in Nambiar’s assessment of intercommunal tensions between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which have persisted since June 2012, and their impact on the nation’s stability and prospects for the consolidation of democracy. During his visit Nambiar said that the violence in the central part of the country “clearly targeted” Muslim communities.

Another issue of concern to some Council members may be the conflict in Kachin. Last month, discussions between Myanmar’s peacemaking committee and the Kachin Independence Organisation were held in China, where they agreed to work towards a lasting ceasefire. The focus of Nambiar’s visits in January and February 2013 appear to have been related to the situation in Kachin and Council members may be interested about developments on this front from Nambiar.

It seems that Council members were all agreeable to having a briefing from the Special Advisor as this has become a regular practice with Myanmar since it was added to the agenda of the Council on 15 September 2006. The last formal discussion was on 13 July 2009 when the Secretary-General briefed the Council on a recent visit to Myanmar. Since then the Council has considered this issue only during informal consultations, generally related to a briefing by the Special Advisor. As a result in September 2012 it became an issue which the Council had not considered formally for the preceding three years leading to the possibility that it could have been deleted from the list of matters of which the Security Council has been seized. However, the UK on 26 February 2013 wrote to the president of the Council (S/2013/116) asking for the retention of the situation in Myanmar on the Council’s list of matters of which it is seized.

In the past China has at times been reluctant to have discussions on Myanmar as it has generally taken the position that the problems in Myanmar were internal and not a matter of international peace and security. It was also not comfortable with the more critical position of a number of Council members towards the then-government of Myanmar. However, the changes since the April 2012 elections are generally viewed as positive by most Council members who appear to want to be encouraging rather than critical at this stage. No outcome is anticipated following the briefing.

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