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9 UN Security Council members urge a halt to airstrikes by Myanmar’s military

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Nine members of the United Nations Security Council condemned the Myanmar military’s “indiscriminate” airstrikes against civilians before an envoy briefed the council on Monday as part of regional efforts to implement a plan to peace that has so far been largely ineffective.

The plan, adopted in April 2021, shortly after the military seized power in a power grab that sparked a civil war, calls for an immediate end to violence in Myanmar, a dialogue between all interested parties and the mediation of a special envoy of the Southeast Asian Association. United Nations, the provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet with all interested parties.

Veteran diplomat Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Laos’ special envoy to Myanmar, this year’s ASEAN chair, and former UN ambassador, addressed a closed-door council meeting on behalf of the 10-member Association of Nations. Southeast Asian. Kittikhoun pledged to implement ASEAN’s “five-point consensus” for peace in Myanmar through continued “quiet diplomacy,” according to a council diplomat familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. .

So far, Myanmar’s military leaders have ignored the plan, and the violence and humanitarian crisis in the country has been growing at a rapid pace.

Before the council meeting, nine of the 15 council members appeared before journalists to support a statement read by British UN ambassador Barbara Woodward, which echoed ASEAN’s call urging the armed forces of Myanmar, “in particular, to cease its attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

The military seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021 and faces an armed pro-democracy resistance movement assisted by ethnic minority fighting forces. The military stepped up airstrikes after the three ethnic minority armed groups launched a major offensive in late October, seizing cities in the country’s northeast, along with important border crossings for trade with China.

The nine council members (Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, South Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) said that, three years after the military takeover of power, more than 18 million people need humanitarian aid and 2.6 million remain displaced.

At an ASEAN ministerial meeting on January 29, Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith told reporters that Thailand was moving forward with plans to provide more humanitarian assistance to Myanmar. The nine nations reiterated the council’s call to improve humanitarian access.

They expressed growing concern about the situation in Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh, where more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims fled starting in August 2017, when the army in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar launched a brutal “ “clearance operation” against them after the attacks of the Arakan insurgent army. .

The Arakan Army is part of the alliance of ethnic minority fighters. A Bangladeshi official said on Monday that more than 100 members of Myanmar’s border guard police fled fighting with the Arakan Army in Rakhine over the past two days and entered Bangladesh, the first known time that the Myanmar forces flee the country since the arrival of ethnic minority armies. the offensive began.

The nine-nation council expressed growing concern that Rohingya still in Myanmar, who have faced systematic discrimination for decades, now face further restrictions on freedom of movement as well as denial of access to medicine. and medical care. They demanded the implementation of the first Security Council resolution on Myanmar, passed in December 2022, which calls for an immediate end to the violence and the immediate release of all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners, including Suu Kyi and former president Win Myint.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, who still represents Suu Kyi’s ousted government, on Monday urged the Security Council to adopt a stronger, more enforceable resolution, saying: “Democratic forces are gaining ground and the junta military is losing every day.

The nine council members said they remain deeply concerned about the lack of progress on the resolution’s call for all parties to respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and “the democratic will and interests” of the people. from Myanmar.

The council diplomat said there was no unanimity at Monday’s meeting on next steps, although there was grave concern about the escalating situation across the country with military fighting on several fronts, the risk of atrocities in Rakhine and the need for better humanitarian access. .

The United States pushed for passage of an enforceable Security Council resolution to prevent Myanmar from obtaining jet fuel, the council diplomat said.

The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and others imposed sanctions in 2023 on the supply of aviation fuel to Myanmar, but Amnesty International reported on January 31 that new evidence suggests the Myanmar military is using new tactics to evade sanctions .

The human rights organization called 2023 the worst year for airstrikes in Myanmar since the takeover, and said at least seven shipments of aviation fuel to Myanmar were directly linked to a storage unit in Vietnam, a member of ASEAN.

According to the council diplomat, China, which has close ties with Myanmar, stressed the need to give time and space to ASEAN’s efforts. Russia, which also has ties to Myanmar, reiterated that the council should not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

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