What's In Blue

Posted Thu 17 Jun 2021

Myanmar: Private Council Meeting

Tomorrow (18 June), the Security Council will convene in person for a private meeting on Myanmar. The expected briefers are Special Envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener and Dato Erywan bin Pehin Yusof, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, as the Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The UK may circulate draft press elements ahead of the meeting.

A private meeting of the Council is closed to the public. However, a private meeting differs from Council consultations, which are also closed, in being a formal meeting of the Security Council. The format of tomorrow’s meeting may allow members to engage in a frank exchange with the two briefers. The meeting is being held following a visit by Erywan and ASEAN chair Lim Jock Hoi to Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s capital, on 4 and 5 June. It appears that the visit was a follow-up to the 24 April meeting of ASEAN leaders in Jakarta. At that meeting, the leaders agreed on a five-point consensus in which they called on the parties to end violence and engage in dialogue. Erywan and Lim met with Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s military (also known as the Tatmadaw), and with other senior military officials. The delegation did not meet with representatives from the National Unity Government (NUG) and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH).  Council members may be interested in hearing more about Erywan and Lim’s meetings with the military leadership.

Erywan is also expected to address developments since the ASEAN leaders’ meeting in April. The consensus statement established a special envoy of the ASEAN chair to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process. However, there has been little movement on appointing the special envoy. Although it seems that the ASEAN leaders agreed that Brunei Darussalam, as ASEAN chair, would make the appointment, there appears to be an understanding that the choice of envoy needs to be approved by Myanmar. Various candidates have been suggested, but there has been no agreement yet. Council members will be interested in an assessment of when an envoy might be appointed, and some members may stress the importance of a timely appointment in the context of ASEAN’s role in addressing the situation in Myanmar.

The Council last discussed Myanmar in a private meeting via videoconference (VTC) on 30 April. At that meeting, which took place shortly after the ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Jakarta, Burgener—who had just met with several ASEAN ministers and Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief—provided an overview of the regional responses to the situation in Myanmar. Since her last briefing, she has held discussions with government officials in Thailand and Japan. At tomorrow’s meeting, she is likely to update members on her recent meetings and reiterate the importance of UN-ASEAN cooperation.

During the 30 April Council meeting, Burgener expressed concern regarding the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Myanmar and the wider possible ramifications of the situation in Myanmar on the region. She may note tomorrow that the situation has not stabilised and suggest that Council members exercise their leverage on the parties where possible.

UN representatives have recently issued warnings about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation because of clashes between ethnic armed groups and the Tatmadaw in border areas in eastern Myanmar. UN reports indicate that up to 100,000 people from Kayah state have fled to the jungles of neighbouring Shan state. In early June, UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tom Andrews warned that those who have been forced to flee their homes in Kayah state are at risk of mass deaths from starvation and disease. In addition, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on 12 June that violence is on the rise in Myanmar with reports of troop build-ups and attacks on civilians, which are “contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence”. Amnesty International estimates that 863 civilians, including 58 children, have been killed since the 1 February takeover of the government by the Tatmadaw.

Tomorrow (18 June) afternoon, the General Assembly is expected to vote on a draft resolution on Myanmar. Following a consultation process led by a core group of countries, which began in March, and an earlier failed attempt to adopt the draft, a revised draft was tabled on 16 June. (The core group includes, among others, Canada, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, as well the EU.) The first attempt was in May, but a letter from nine ASEAN members (Myanmar was not included) led to the postponing of the adoption. The letter from the ASEAN members highlighted the importance of consensus and expressed concern about the signal that the draft may send. The concern that the draft would not have wide support, especially from countries in the region, led to it being withdrawn and revised following consultations with ASEAN members. It seems that a key concern was a paragraph in the earlier draft calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar. The new draft, which will be considered tomorrow, contains softer language but retains a call to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar. It seems that there is a strong desire by most member states for the resolution to be adopted by consensus without a vote, but some member states believe that there is still a possibility that a vote could be called. It seems that some ASEAN countries are keen not to have to vote on this draft resolution as it appears that their votes might show the lack of unity among ASEAN countries on Myanmar.

At tomorrow’s private Council meeting, Council members are expected to express concern over the continuing violence and reiterate their support for a democratic process. Some members may reiterate their call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Members are also likely to express support for ASEAN’s role, although there appears to be growing disappointment among some members with the slow implementation of the five-point consensus. Members are likely to voice support for the Special Envoy and many may once again express the hope that she will be able to visit Myanmar soon.

Council members from the region, such as China, India and Viet Nam, are likely to be more positive about developments such as the recent visit by Erywan and the ASEAN Secretary-General. These members are expected to stress ASEAN’s central role in resolving the crisis in Myanmar and may be less critical of the lack of implementation of the five-point consensus.

There are some members who would like the adoption of a General Assembly resolution to spur the Council to take stronger action. However, it appears that while there is a fragile unity on some aspects, the different approaches for resolving the crisis make it difficult for the Council to move much beyond what has already been expressed in their 10 March presidential statement, the 4 February press statement and 30 April press elements. Tomorrow’s meeting will be the sixth meeting on the situation in Myanmar since early February. However, the Council appears to have been less focused on the issue since the ASEAN summit. Members who were willing to allow for a limited amount of Council action during the period of instability and uncertainty following the military takeover of the government may, over time, be less inclined to see the Council take up this issue regularly.