UN envoy says Myanmar is now in conflict, could be failed state


UNITED NATIONS—The UN special envoy for Myanmar warned Thursday that the country already faces “an internal armed conflict” and if power isn’t returned to the people in a democratic way “we will go in the direction of a failed state.”

Christine Schraner Burgener told a UN news conference that the conflict between the military, which took power on February 1 and civilians and ethnic minorities is intensifying in many parts of the country.

“The repression of the military has led to more than 1,180 deaths,” she said. “The army uses a range of tactics against civilian populations, including burning villages, looting properties, mass arrests, torture and execution of prisoners, gender-based violence and random artillery fire into residential areas.”

Schraner Burgener said the military is conducting clearing operations in Chin and several other states and there is continued fighting in Kachin and Shan states “so all over the country we have a huge scale of violence.”

She said the situation is reminiscent of the pattern of operations that the military, known as the Tatmadaw, used against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state in 1997.

Schraner Burgener said the anti-military movement is now “increasingly militarized,” with the so-called National Unity Government formed by supporters of the ousted democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi seeking to mobilize a greater number of Peoples Defense Forces and calling for “a people’s defense war.”

“Clearly, in the absence of international action, violence has been justified as the last resort,” she said.

Myanmar for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Suu Kyi’s rise to leadership in 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country.

The February 1 coup followed November elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won overwhelmingly and the military contests as fraudulent.

Schraner Burgener said “the overall situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate sharply” and at the moment there is violence and no stability.

She said the conflict must be solved, and “the power must be returned to the people in a democratic way,” but the military did not respond to her proposal for a national dialogue and appears intent on continuing its operations. AP

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