Myanmar’s Violence Requires a Stronger Response, UN Envoy Urges

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The United Nations special envoy for Myanmar pleaded with the Security Council Friday to do more to halt the violence there after the death of about 50 peaceful protesters against the military’s coup.

Christine Schraner Burgener told a closed UN Security Council meeting that trust in the world body is “waning,” saying she receives about 2,000 messages every day calling “for international action to reverse a clear assault on the will of the people of Myanmar and democratic principles.”

Myanmar’s Violence Requires a Stronger Response, UN Envoy Urges

“We must be robust and timely in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions,” Schraner Burgener said, according to a text of her remarks seen by Bloomberg News. “We must denounce the actions by the military, which continues to severely undermine the principles of this organization and ignores our clear signals to uphold them.”

Security Council members are negotiating a further statement on the crisis in Myanmar following this week’s violence, but diplomats acknowledged it’s unlikely Russia and China will support sanctions on the military, which seized control in February.

China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun signaled as much, saying “the international community should help relevant parties in Myanmar conduct dialogue and reconciliation” while “respecting Myanmar’s sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity.”

U.K. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters that her country has applied bilateral sanctions and is reviewing its aid to Myanmar. “But, as you know, from the UN point of view, any further measures would require agreement from all council members,” she said.

This week, the UN turned into a diplomatic battleground over the coup in the Southeast Asian nation, with Myanmar’s anti-junta ambassador in New York refusing to give up his seat.

The military junta announced it replaced Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun after he made a dramatic speech at the UN General Assembly last week in defense of the demonstrators while holding up the three-finger “Hunger Games” salute adopted by activists throughout the country.

Myanmar’s Violence Requires a Stronger Response, UN Envoy Urges

But the ambassador says he’s still the envoy, and he won support from U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who met with him this week and commended his “courageous and compassionate statement.” In the latest twist, the deputy ambassador the junta installed in his place quit after facing criticism.

The deputy’s decision to resign was confirmed by a letter from the Myanmar mission to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday seen by Bloomberg News.

“I am the one who has received a good public servant badge, who has served for more than three decades,” Tin Maung Naing, the departing deputy UN ambassador, wrote on Facebook. “I am the one who is loyal to the state. Due to this situation, I had to decide to leave my job, which I love and value very much.”

China last month surprised many diplomats when it quickly endorsed a statement stressing the need to uphold democratic institutions, even as it stopped short of calling the Feb. 1 takeover a coup.

While the U.S. has led the international pushback against the military, Asian countries haven’t taken any concrete action. On Tuesday, foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, called in a statement “on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence” but didn’t mention detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi by name or even use the word “coup.”

“The military authorities in Myanmar, frankly, do not respond to economic sanctions, do not respond to moral opprobrium,” Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in parliament Friday. “References to the Asean charter and human rights, whilst essential, are not sufficient to change their behavior, so we do need to be realistic in what we say or do.”

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