What's In Blue

Posted Tue 30 Mar 2021

Myanmar: Briefing by the Special Envoy

Tomorrow (31 March), Security Council members will be briefed on developments in Myanmar by Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener in a closed videoconference (VTC). Council members last met on Myanmar on 5 March and adopted a presidential statement on 10 March. Press elements may be issued following the meeting tomorrow.

The Myanmar military (also known as the Tatmadaw) has continued its crackdown and detention of protestors over the month. Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day on 27 March saw the highest number of deadly attacks, with up to 100 people killed, according to media reports. Airstrikes over the weekend (27-28 March) in northeast Myanmar led thousands of ethnic Karen people living in the area to flee across the border to Thailand.

There have been strong reactions from the UN to the recent violence. In a statement on 27 March, Secretary-General António Guterres said that “the continuing military crackdown…is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified and resolute international response”.  On 26 March, ahead of Armed Forces Day, the Special Envoy said that she remained deeply disturbed by the ongoing violence committed by Myanmar’s security forces and highlighted that women, youth and children have been among those killed.

On 28 March, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, issued a joint statement on Myanmar. The statement strongly condemned the Myanmar military’s “widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other serious violations of human rights”. The Special Adviser and the High Commissioner also called on the Security Council to take further steps and for ASEAN and the wider international community to uphold the responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from atrocity crimes.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called for a summit of all stakeholders, including neighbouring countries and those with influence in the region, on 25 March. Earlier in the month, Andrews urged the Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court “to investigate and prosecute atrocities committed since the coup on 1 February and those committed against ethnic groups in years prior”.

A draft General Assembly resolution on Myanmar was circulated by a group of member states today with adoption anticipated early next week.

Special Envoy Burgener is expected to update Council members on the developments in recent days. Burgener last briefed Council members on 5 March, calling on them to take urgent action and stressing the importance of Council unity. Tomorrow she may urge Council members to take stronger measures, including targeted sanctions. Members may be interested in hearing about Burgener’s plans to travel to several ASEAN countries and Bangladesh. Council members may also want to hear more about Indonesia’s proposal for an ASEAN summit on Myanmar.

Council members are likely to express their concern about the continuing deterioration of the situation in Myanmar and the rising levels of violence. There is broad agreement among them on the need to show support for the democratic process in Myanmar and the need to de-escalate the situation.

They may also discuss possible next steps during the meeting tomorrow. The 10 March presidential statement strongly condemned the violence against peaceful protestors, but the military’s actions over the last two weeks indicate that the Council’s statement had little impact. It seems that the UK, the penholder on Myanmar in the Council, may be interested in proposing a draft resolution. Members such as the US, the European Council members are expected to be supportive of having a resolution that includes language on targeted sanctions, accountability and human rights. Several other members, if they are agreeable to having a resolution, may wish to proceed more cautiously. Until members begin negotiations on a draft, it is difficult to tell if members that have traditionally been reluctant to take strong action on this issue may now be willing to do so, given the developments over the last two months.