New UN envoy to Myanmar raises hopes of breakthrough

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Nolin Hezar as the new special envoy to Myanmar, and observers were optimistic on Wednesday that the Southeast Asian native’s new outlook could lead to a breakthrough in the nine-month political crisis the country is going through.

Hezar, a former UN Deputy Secretary General and Singaporean, learned about Myanmar while chairing the UN Regional Commission for Southeast Asia in the early 2000s. United Nations Secretary-General’s Special for Peacebuilding and Sustainable Development in Timor, 73, had visited Myanmar several times before 2010 to help those affected by Cyclone Nargis.

She will replace outgoing Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener, who had spoken with leaders, including junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, on the sidelines of an emergency summit convened in Jakarta by the Association of Nations of the Southeast Asia (ASEAN) in April to resolve the situation. in Myanmar amid the crackdown that followed the February 1 military coup. A five-point consensus to end the violence was agreed at that meeting, which included access by a special envoy to Myanmar to all political parties, but Schraner Burgener was ultimately barred from entering the country and will withdraw during the week.

The UN created the post of special envoy in 2018 to address the plight of Rohingya Muslims who were the target of brutal military repression in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a year earlier, causing them to flee. about 740,000 people to Bangladesh.

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Moe Thuzar, an expert on Southeast Asia, said Hezar – whose appointment was announced on Monday – knows the situation in Myanmar and the region in general, and believes she can work with ASEAN to help resolve the unfolding political crisis. almost nine months since the military coup.

“The negotiations between ASEAN and the United Nations are still ongoing, and they should continue to coordinate with goodwill and in the interest of Myanmar,” he told RFA’s Myanmar service.

“This is not a path that ASEAN takes alone, nor a path paved by the United Nations alone. We will have to work in tandem with the international community.

Ye Tun, a former political analyst and lawmaker, said that the appointment of a special envoy from Singapore – an ASEAN member – underscores the UN’s special focus on helping Myanmar through the blow. Military state to a functioning democracy.

“A citizen of Singapore who is a member of ASEAN will be able to focus more on our country. She might have other ideas, ”he said.

“Our country has already been sanctioned by ASEAN and [Min Aung Hlaing] was not invited to the ASEAN summit for failing to implement its recent agreements and resolutions. I think the UN is paying more attention to our problem now.

Forbidden from the top

In an unprecedented move earlier this month, ASEAN foreign ministers excluded Min Aung Hlaing from the ASEAN virtual summit that kicked off in Bandar Seri Begawan on Tuesday, saying he had gone back on the consensus that ‘he had agreed at the emergency meeting in April.

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The snub was widely seen as an embarrassment to the junta, which issued a statement Tuesday saying it was choosing not to attend because ASEAN had refused military government representation.

Bo Hla Tint, the newly appointed Special Envoy to ASEAN for Myanmar’s Shadow National Unity Government (NUG), told RFA other options for an envoy should be considered in case the military would ban Hezar from traveling to Myanmar.

“The former special envoys could do nothing when the army refused them entry into the country,” he said.

“There won’t be any significant results just by appointing a new special envoy without a plan B. If this is a preparatory movement because there are rumors that the junta could act in accordance with the ASEAN five-point agreement, we’ll have to wait and see. “

Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told RFA that if Hezar “acts impartially and fairly,” the military will cooperate with him, in accordance with UN conventions, but “no ‘will not accept any action taken with a political motive “.

“I want to say that it would be acceptable if [she] looks at the situation from all angles and acts in a balanced way, ”he said.

“Otherwise, I would just say that it would be difficult to move forward if they act with a political goal in mind, as they have done in the past.

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Indispensable military cooperation

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister of Myanmar’s shadow government of national unity, said the special envoy might be more effective in resolving the crisis because she is from an ASEAN country, but added that she will not be able to succeed in her mission without the help of the military. Cooperation.

“The change of position of ASEAN [on Myanmar], cooperation with the West and regional actions are all important and these factors would allow it to play a more active role, ”he said.

“However, no matter how efficiently it performs its job, if the military is not really willing to solve the problem, it will not be very successful.”

Almost nine months after the February 1 military coup, security forces killed 1,218 civilians and arrested at least 7,026, according to the Bangkok-based Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, mostly during the crackdown anti-junta demonstrations.

The junta said they toppled the National League for Democracy government because they claimed the party staged a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 elections through widespread electoral fraud. He has yet to present any evidence for his claims and public unrest is at an all time high.

Reported by the Myanmar service of RFA. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.