UN special envoy to Myanmar arrives on inaugural visit

BANGKOK (AP) — United Nations Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer arrived in Myanmar on Tuesday on her first mission to the country since her appointment last year. Her visit follows a UN Security Council call for an immediate end to all forms of violence there and unhindered humanitarian access to those affected by the fighting.

Myanmar’s state television MRTV showed on its evening news program Heyzer’s initial arrival in the country’s largest city, Yangon, and then in the capital, Naypyitaw. It was not reported in his agenda.

Heyzer “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns, as well as other priority areas of his mandate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York on Monday.

His visit also follows the recent executions of four political activists by the military government, which sparked global condemnation adding to concerns about reports of widespread human rights abuses.

It was not immediately known whether Heyzer will meet with the leader of Myanmar’s military government, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, or with the country’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held in prison in Naypyitaw. She has been prosecuted in a series of criminal cases believed to be politically motivated by the ruling military. The government has refused to allow him to meet outsiders, including a special envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to which Myanmar belongs.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government last year and arrested her along with other senior members of her government. The army took power on February 1, 2021, the day her party would have started a second five-year term after winning a landslide victory in the November 2020 general election.

The army’s seizure of power sparked peaceful street protests across the country, which security forces put down with lethal force, prompting armed resistance.

Heyzer’s predecessor as special envoy to the UN secretary-general in Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said last October at the end of her three-and-a-half-year term that “civil war” had spread throughout the country and that the The international community should consider measures aimed at replacing the military leaders of the government with people who are more constructive and want to find a peaceful solution to the army’s overthrow of the elected government. She was not allowed to visit Myanmar after the army took over.

Heyzer has taken a softer line so far, stating that he seeks to engage all parties to the conflict in seeking a return to peace.

“In accordance with my all-stakeholder approach, I have engaged with hundreds of national stakeholders, such as the National Unity Government (NUG), the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), the National League for Democracy ( NLD), ethnic armed organizations, civil society, women and youth from communities, including in hard-to-reach areas,” she told the UN General Assembly in June. The NUG and the CRPH are leading opposition organizations and have been officially declared “terrorist” groups by the military government, which denounces any contact with them.

Moe Zaw Oo, deputy foreign minister of the Government of National Unity, said in a text message sent to reporters that the time is not right for the UN special envoy’s visit.

“We understand that the UN special envoy is doing her duty, but I would like to say that it is not the right time for her. It is also uncertain how much it will benefit the country. This is the time to be very careful not to recognize the military group,” said Moe Zaw Oo. “You also need to learn from the fact that the ASEAN special envoy has visited Myanmar twice, but nothing has been achieved. We are watching his journey carefully.”

Earlier this year, Heyzer came under fire for appearing to suggest in an interview with Singapore’s CNA television news channel that Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces should negotiate a power-sharing deal with the ruling generals. His office later said his comments had been misrepresented.

However, around 250 local and national civil society groups in Myanmar issued a statement saying his comments may have encouraged the military to continue its violent crackdown.

“These statements could set a dangerous precedent, that those who take control through brutal means (massacreing, killing, raping, arresting, torturing, burning towns and people, targeting civilians with airstrikes and bombings) are welcome to share the power,” he said. he said she.

Heyzer led UNIFEM, a UN development organization that focuses on promoting the economic advancement of women, from 1994 to 2007. She was the first woman to serve as executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in 2007-2014.

He has also visited Myanmar for rehabilitation programs and to provide aid. In 2008-2009, as UN Under-Secretary-General, she worked closely with a previous military government and ASEAN on recovery efforts after Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 138,000 people.


Associated Press writer Edie Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


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