A ‘window of opportunity’ for unity opens in Myanmar
Speaking to reporters in New York, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Noeleen Heyzer, urged the international community to “use this opening to help Myanmar work towards a common vision for their country”.
“The road ahead will be long and difficult, but it’s time to act“, she said.
Distribution of rice in the city of Yangon, Myanmar., by © WFP/Kaung Htet Linn
According to her, there has been “a large-scale resistance movement built against the military regime” and all sides are now hardening their positions, through violence.
The situation has also become increasingly unstable as military operations intensify, including recent air and artillery attacks.
Around 1,500 civilians have been killed so far and the number of internally displaced people continues to rise.
By the end of 2021, over 320,000 people had been internally displaced. Over the past month, the number has risen to more than 400,000.
Nearly half of the country’s population, some 25 million people, now live in poverty and more than 14.4 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
As Myanmar faces another potential surge of COVID-19, the public health system is in disarray.
“We are also seeing an unprecedented level of drug manufacturing and trade, while human trafficking and illegal mining and logging have increased,” Ms Heyzer said.
She believes the expansion of illicit activities is further fueling the conflict and has broad security, health and environmental consequences that go beyond Myanmar, affecting the entire region.
“A generation of young people who thrived under democratic transition are now sacrificing their lives for freedom and for the love of their country“said the special envoy.
For her, “the painful uprooting of Myanmar’s democratic gains will have lasting repercussions”.
Reiterating the Secretary-General’s call, Ms. Heyzer urged the international community to stand firm with the people of Myanmar and to do more than just expressions of solidarity.
Following consultations with all stakeholders, the envoy worked with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, a plan devised in April last year to end the violence.
The envoy also presented several proposals, including the need for a “humanitarian pause” and action by the Security Council to help lay the groundwork for a national dialogue.
For that to happen, she said, air operations must cease immediately and there must be credible progress in the eyes of the population.
Students walk home after school in Loikaw, Kayah State, Myanmar., by © UNICEF/ Min Zayar Oo
“The people of Myanmar need to see tangible improvements on the ground in order to trust any internal process towards a peaceful resolution reflecting their will and their needs,” said Ms. Heyzer.
The Special Envoy also addressed the plight of the Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to Bangladesh since 2017 amid brutal persecution by military and security forces.
She called for international support to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya, as well as urgent protection for refugees fleeing Myanmar, saying this should be part of broader efforts to find solutions. peaceful policies.
Just last week, Bangladesh and Myanmar resumed talks on the repatriation of these refugees, agreeing to cooperate in the process of verifying the refugees’ past residence.
“The people of Myanmar have united in solidarity with the Rohingyas and there is significant momentum for their inclusion in a democracy that has become an unprecedented aspiration,” Ms. Heyzer said.
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