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UN calls on Myanmar military to end violence, release political prisoners

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)
In this picture, handed out by Myanmar’s junta, UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer (L) and junta’s leader General Min Aung Hlaing are seen shaking hands in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on August 17, 2022.

The United Nations has once again called on the junta in Myanmar to halt executions, end violence, and release all political prisoners.

Myanmar's military staged a coup and detained the then-de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as some of the key members of her ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) Party.

The junta claimed that it had seized power after finding widespread fraud in elections held three months earlier that Suu Kyi's NLD had won in a landslide. Following the coup, the military handed power to General Min Aung Hlaing and imposed a state of emergency for a year.

The coup has drawn worldwide condemnation and the UN Security Council has already called on the junta to release all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, but all to no avail.

In late July, the junta executed four political activists in the country's first use of capital punishment in more than three decades. Among the dead was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from NLD.

On Wednesday, Noeleen Heyzer, the United Nations' special envoy on Myanmar, called for an end to violence and the release of all political inmates on her first visit to the troubled South Asian country since her appointment last year.

She made the call during a meeting with General Min. According to her office, Heyzer had "directly urged" him "to impose a moratorium on all future executions."

Furthermore, the UN envoy also urged the army chief to put an immediate end to the violence and to release all political prisoners, including former Suu Kyi's adviser Sean Turnell, an Australian economist.

UN Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said despite Heyzer’s request to meet with Suu Kyi, she had not been able to do so.

According to Haq, Heyzer and the junta leader had "a good discussion" and that the UN would see whether her key demands would be carried out.

He added that the world body would "continue to push on those points."

Led largely by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), diplomatic efforts to ease the persisting crisis have made almost no progress, with junta generals refusing to deliver on a peace plan that was agreed upon in 2021.

During a meeting with Heyzer, the junta's foreign minister called on the UN to "constructively and pragmatically review its approach in its cooperation with Myanmar."

In her concluding remarks on Wednesday, Heyzer stressed that people of Myanmar had the right to democracy and self-determination free from fear and want, which will only be possible by the good will and efforts of all stakeholders in an inclusive process.

Separately on Wednesday, the junta lashed out at the ASEAN for excluding its generals from regional gatherings, accusing it of caving to "external pressure."

"If a seat representing a country is vacant, then it should not be labeled an ASEAN summit," said junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun.

"What they want is for us to meet and talk with the terrorists," he added, using the junta's label for pro-democracy activists who have taken up arms to counter the military.

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