What's In Blue

Posted Wed 12 Apr 2023

Myanmar: Meeting under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow (13 April), following the briefing and closed consultations on Colombia, Security Council members will discuss airstrikes carried out by the Myanmar military in the north-western Sagaing region on 11 April under “any other business”. The meeting was requested by the UK, the penholder on Myanmar.  The briefer had not been confirmed at the time of writing, but members are expecting to hear from either the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer or from a representative from the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

According to media reports, the airstrikes hit the village of Pazigyi in the Sagaing region’s Kanbalu township, where approximately 300 people had gathered for the opening of a local administration office under the authority of the National Unity Government (NUG). (The NUG is an alliance of politicians ousted during the February 2021 coup.)

Media outlets have reported that more than 100 people, including at least 30 children, were killed during the airstrikes, making it one of the deadliest attacks since the military seized power. A spokesperson for the military authorities confirmed that the attack took place during the opening ceremony and claimed that the airstrikes targeted the People’s Defence Force (PDF). (The PDF is a collection of militias and armed units, many of which are under the control of the NUG.)

On 11 April, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement that strongly condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be held accountable. The statement also condemned all forms of violence, reaffirmed the primacy of the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law, and reiterated Guterres’ call for the military to end its campaign of violence in line with Security Council resolution 2669 of 21 December 2022.

In an 11 April statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk described the Sagaing region as “an opposition stronghold in the northwest of the country” and noted that “it appears schoolchildren performing dances, as well as other civilians” were among the victims. Türk also said: “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the military and its affiliated militias are responsible for an extremely broad range of human rights violations and abuses since 1 February 2021, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

The UK circulated a draft press statement regarding the attack to Council members on 11 April. The draft apparently strongly condemned the attack, stressed the need to ensure accountability, reiterated Council members’ call for the immediate cessation of violence, stressed the need for unhindered humanitarian access, and demanded the full implementation of resolution 2669, among other matters.

While the draft appeared to enjoy broad support from a majority of Council members, it seems that it was blocked by China and Russia, who apparently noted that the military authorities had provided information concerning the attack that differed from the witness accounts referred to in media reports and argued that the circumstances surrounding the attack were unclear. It seems that China and Russia also contended that the Council should refrain from taking sides in internal affairs and encourage the parties in Myanmar to resolve their differences through dialogue and reconciliation. The UK apparently requested tomorrow’s meeting after China and Russia expressed their opposition to the draft press statement.

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