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UN envoy urges Security Council to act on deadly crackdown in Myanmar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police charge on protesters as they crack down on demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations special envoy on Myanmar has called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take swift action to restore civilian rule to the country, following the deaths of dozens of anti-coup protesters at the hands of military forces.

Christine Burgener warned that the situation in Myanmar was moving toward “an acute humanitarian crisis” and stressed that “the repression must stop.”

“Your unity is needed more than ever on Myanmar,” Burgener told a closed-door meeting of the UNSC on Friday.

The UN official said she was receiving some 2,000 messages a day from Myanmar urging international action, adding that “the hope they have placed in the United Nations and its membership is waning and I have heard directly the desperate pleas — from mothers, students and the elderly.”

The military said on February 1 that it had arrested Myanmar’s ousted de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her associates over accusations of voter fraud in favor of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in November 2020 elections.

The military placed commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing in power, pledging to hold fresh elections in a year and hand over power to the winner.

The country has since been the scene of angry anti-coup protests, which have been met with a heavy-handed military crackdown. More than 50 people have so far been killed in the clampdown.

Braving tight security, the protesters once again took to the streets of several towns and cities on Friday to renew the call for a return to civilian rule.

The Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic armed group engaged in a long-running war with the military, backed the protesters on Friday.

The KNU fighters joined protesters in the southeastern Karen state, flashing the three-finger salute that the protesters adopted from anti-government demonstrators in neighboring Thailand, and handed out water bottles.

“People in urban areas, ethnic armed groups and the international community must work together until the military dictatorship falls,” the KNU said in a statement.

Calling for a halt in the “vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday said more than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists.

The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, on Thursday called on the Security Council to impose a global arms embargo on the country and targeted economic sanctions on the junta.

Myanmar was ruled by the military from 1962 until 2011, when Suu Kyi ended the junta rule.

Her international reputation has been tarnished because she defended a military campaign of genocide against the minority Rohingya Muslim community in 2017.

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