U.N. chief says ‘systematic repression’ crushing Myanmar democracy hopes

Myanmar is facing genocide accusations at the United Nations’ top court following the mass exodus

September 07, 2023 10:03 pm | Updated 10:03 pm IST - Jakarta

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends the ASEAN-U.N. Summit as part of the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 7, 2023.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends the ASEAN-U.N. Summit as part of the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 7, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Hopes of a return to democracy in junta-ruled Myanmar are being crushed by “systematic repression”, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on September 7 at a summit in Indonesia with the United States, China and regional leaders.

Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since a 2021 military coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, unleashing a bloody crackdown on dissent.

“Brutal violence, worsening poverty, and systematic repression are crushing hopes for a return to democracy,” Mr. Guterres said before a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member.

“The situation is untenable.”

The junta was not in attendance after being barred from attending ASEAN summits until it implements a five-point peace plan agreed two years ago.

Mr. Guterres said the crisis has “further deteriorated” in the past year and said in an earlier speech the world was witnessing an “enormous tragedy”.

Before his meeting with ASEAN leaders, he repeated a call for Myanmar’s military authorities to free detained leaders and political prisoners and return to democratic rule.

Deposed civilian leader Ms. Suu Kyi is among those still in detention.

Also Read | Myanmar’s jailed ex-leader Aung San Suu Kyi ailing: source

Mr. Guterres also said the conditions for the safe return of Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2017, many of them to neighbouring Bangladesh, during a brutal military crackdown “are not yet in sight”.

Myanmar is facing genocide accusations at the United Nations’ top court following the mass exodus.

Leaders at the ASEAN summit on Tuesday called on Myanmar’s military rulers to “de-escalate violence and stop targeted attacks on civilians”, a statement the junta condemned as “one-sided”.

Myanmar has also been replaced as ASEAN’s rotating chair in 2026 by the Philippines.

An Indonesian official, who declined to be identified, said “they are still isolated, ASEAN does not trust them”.

Mr. Guterres welcomed efforts to resolve the crisis under the five-point peace plan but the junta has largely ignored it.

In a wide-ranging speech earlier at the summit, he called on world leaders to “turn up the heat” on action to solve the global climate crisis.

It came a day after he said “climate breakdown has begun” after the EU monitoring body said 2023 was likely to be the hottest year in human history.

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