UN chief vows to rally global pressure to make sure Myanmar coup fails

Myanmar nationals display photos of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and a defaced photo of Myanmar's army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during a protest against the Myanmar military coup, outside the United Nations building in Bangkok, Thailand, 3 February 2021. [Narong Sangnak/EPA/EFE]

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres pledged on Wednesday (3 February) to mobilize enough international pressure on Myanmar’s military “to make sure that this coup fails” as the UN Security Council tries to negotiate a statement on the crisis.

The Myanmar army detained the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others on Monday in response to “election fraud”, handed power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing, and imposed a state of emergency for one year.

Myanmar military seizes power, detains elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids.

“We will do everything we can to mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” Guterres said during an interview broadcast by The Washington Post. “It is absolutely unacceptable after elections – elections that I believe took place normally – and after a large period of transition.”

The military takeover cut short Myanmar’s long transition to democracy and drew condemnation from the United States and other Western countries.

An initial draft statement put forward by Britain for discussion among the 15-member Security Council condemned the coup, and called for the military to respect the rule of law and human rights and immediately release those detained.

However, such statements have to be agreed by consensus and diplomats said the language would likely need to be softened to win the support of China and Russia, who have traditionally shielded Myanmar in the Security Council.

“We’re continuing discussions on the council’s next steps on Myanmar and council colleagues have agreed that it’s important for us to speak with one voice on the issue,” British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current president of the council, told reporters on Wednesday.

Myanmar police have filed charges against Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment, according to a police document reviewed on Wednesday.

“Aung San Suu Kyi – if we can accuse her of something – is that she was too close to the military, is that she protected too much the military, namely in relation to what has happened with the dramatic offensive of the military army against the Rohingyas,” Guterres said.

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A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State sent more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing into Bangladesh, where they are still stranded in refugee camps. Guterres and Western states have accused the Myanmar military of ethnic cleansing, which it denies.

Guterres said all those detained by the military during the coup must be released and constitutional order restored.

“I hope that it will be possible to make the military in Myanmar understand that this is not the way to rule the country and this is not the way to move forward,” he said.

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