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Myanmar: An end to the military’s campaign of violence and political repression is a vital step, says ASG Khiari

Remarks by Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari

Open Security Council Meeting on Myanmar

New York, 4 April 2024


Madam President,

Members of the Security Council,

More than three years have passed since the military overturned the democratically elected Government and detained its leaders, including President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The Secretary-General has consistently called for their immediate release as well as all arbitrarily detained prisoners. He has also called for a unified response as violence continues to intensify throughout Myanmar, driving displacement and deepening the political, humanitarian, and human rights crisis.

The expansion of armed conflict throughout the country has deprived communities of basic needs and access to essential services, and a devastating impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms. Amid reports of indiscriminate aerial bombardments by the Myanmar Armed Forces and artillery shelling by various parties, the civilian toll keeps rising.

The United Nations condemns all forms of violence. As my OCHA colleague will highlight, ensuring the protection of civilians including aid workers, in accordance with international humanitarian law, as well as securing the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access are paramount.

In Rakhine State, fighting between the military and the Arakan Army has reached an unprecedented level of violence, compounding pre-existing vulnerabilities in Myanmar’s poorest region. The Arakan Army has reportedly gained territorial control over most of central Rakhine and seeks to expand to northern Rakhine where many Rohingya remain.

Broadly, Ethnic Armed Organizations, the National Unity Government, the National Unity Consultative Council, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and others are working to overcome past divides beyond ethnic autonomy interests. Today, the National Unity Consultative Council, comprising various Myanmar stakeholders, convened their Second People’s Assembly to further define their common vision for the future of Myanmar. Addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis will be essential to establish a sustainable pathway out of the current crisis. The failure to do so and continued impunity will only keep fuelling Myanmar’s vicious cycle of violence.  It is important that all parties in Rakhine protect the Rohingya population. Caught in the middle of the conflict, civilians, including the Rohingya, face grave protection concerns and elevated intercommunal tensions. In particular, Rohingya communities continue to experience significant restrictions on their freedom of movement, denial of citizenship, and remain disproportionately vulnerable to abduction or forced recruitment.

There are also growing concerns for displaced Rohingya women and girls, who are facing increased risks of sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.

On 18 March, the Secretary-General highlighted his concern about reports of forcible detention and recruitment of youths, including the Rohingya, and the potential impact of forced conscription on human rights and on the social fabric of communities in Myanmar.  He also called on all parties to prevent further incitement of communal tensions.

Madam President,

Rakhine’s current circumstances do not allow immediate prospect for the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya to their places of origin or choice. I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for redoubling our efforts to enable access to territories for those fleeing persecution and violence, and to protect and assist refugees from Myanmar, including the Rohingya, and support their host communities. Effective regional protection mechanisms and early efforts to counter misinformation, disinformation and hate speech are needed.

The surge in the number of desperate Rohingya refugees reportedly dying or going missing while taking risky boat journeys in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal is alarming and underscores the need to find more suitable solutions for the Rohingya as soon as possible.

I take this opportunity to appreciate Bangladesh for generously hosting over a million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled Myanmar almost seven years ago. Collective support from the international community to the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis is critical.

It is essential that protection measures are accompanied by efforts to address underlying causes of displacement and instability. These efforts must be informed directly by voices of the Rohingya.

Madam President,

Any solution to the current crisis requires conditions that permit the people of Myanmar to exercise their human rights freely and peacefully. An end to the military’s campaign of violence and political repression is a vital step. In this respect, the Secretary-General has highlighted concern about the military’s intention to move ahead with elections amid intensifying conflict and human rights violations across the country.

Relatedly, the State Administration Council’s announcement on the enforcement of the conscription law has intensified social unrest against the military and violence, including reports of attacks against village administrators, suicides of drafted young men, and a surging number of movements across Myanmar’s borders. The absence of youth in the workforce is further adding to Myanmar’s dire socio-economic outlook.

Madam President,

Myanmar’s crisis continues to spillover as conflicts in key border areas have weakened transnational security and the breakdown in the rule of law has allowed illicit economies to thrive. There is cause for concern beyond the region. Myanmar has become a global epicentre of methamphetamine and opium production, along with a rapid expansion of global cyberscam operations, particularly in border areas. With scarce livelihood opportunities, criminal networks continue to prey on the increasingly vulnerable population. What began as a regional crime threat in Southeast Asia is now a rampant human trafficking and illicit trade crisis with global implications.

Madam President,

There is a clear case for greater international unity and support to the region. As called for by this Council, the United Nations will continue to work in complement to ASEAN and support its efforts to implement the Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar, and actively engage with all relevant stakeholders. The Secretary-General plans to appoint a Special Envoy in the coming days to engage with ASEAN, Member States and all stakeholders to advance toward a Myanmar-led political solution to the crisis.

As the prolonged crisis deepens, the Secretary-General continues to call for a unified international response and encourages Member States, particularly neighbouring countries, to leverage their influence to open up humanitarian channels in line with international principles, end the violence, and seek a comprehensive political solution that leads to an inclusive and peaceful future for Myanmar.

The Security Council’s role and implementing of Resolution 2669 of December 2022, remains crucial.

The United Nations remains committed to staying and delivering in solidarity with the people of Myanmar. 

Thank you.