The UN’s special envoy for Myanmar told the General Assembly on Monday that the political crisis in the country following the 1 February military coup last year, has “both deepened and expanded dramatically”.
Noeleen Heyzer said that since she took up the job six months ago, Myanmar has “continued to descend into profound and widespread conflict”.
Already one of the world’s largest refugee emergencies, she reminded that multidimensional crises there have left over one million internally displaced people (IDPs) across the country with serious regional and international ramifications.
Nearly one million mainly Muslim Rohingyas live in refugees camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and hundreds of thousands of others are scattered across the region.
This crisis has resulted in collapsing State institutions, disrupting social and economic infrastructure – including health, education, banking, food security and employment – while increasing criminality and illicit activities.
And over the past five years, the number of people living in poverty has doubled to encompass half the population.
“Today, 14.4 million people, or one-quarter of the entire population of Myanmar urgently require humanitarian assistance,” said the Special Envoy.
At the same time, following the COVID-19 pandemic and political crisis, school enrolment has dropped by up to 80% in two years, leaving at least 7.8 million children shut out of the classroom.
“A generation that benefitted from the democratic transition is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and, tragically, many feel they have no choice left but to take up arms,” she warned.
As military violence and distrust have continued to deepen, including against peaceful protestors, armed conflict “has become the norm” for all Burmese.
“The military continues its disproportionate use of force, has intensified its attack on civilians and increased operations against resistance forces, using aerial bombings,” said the senior UN official.
“Civilian buildings and villages have been destroyed by fire and internally displaced populations have been attacked.”
Meanwhile, there are reports of up to 600 armed resistance groups, or “people’s defense forces” engaged in fighting, with some conducting assassinations targeting those seen as “pro-military”.
Ms. Heyzer said she was continuing to work closely with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to de-escalate hostilities.
However, she pointed out that continued differences, regionally and more broadly among UN Member States, “have left the people of Myanmar feeling abandoned in their time of need.” (Source: UN News)