UN will seek to unite world, reverse Myanmar coup: UN chief

United Nations: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged Friday that the United Nations will do everything it can to unite the international community and create conditions for the military coup in Myanmar to be reversed, Associated Press reported.

The UN chief told a news conference it is absolutely essential to carry out the Security Council’s calls for a return to democracy, respect for the results of the November parliamentary elections, and release of all people detained by the military, which means the reversal of the coup that took place.

It is absolutely essential that that moves forward, and for that, I believe, we need to have all possible areas of pressure to make it happen, Guterres said.

Myanmar’s military announced Monday on the eve of the meeting of new Parliament that it will take power for one year, accusing leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government of not investigating allegations of voter fraud in the November elections, where its party did poorly.

It detained Suu Kyi, whose party swept that vote, and other lawmakers, activists, journalists and members of civil society. The election commission had refuted the military’s allegations.

In its first statement following the military’s takeover on Thursday, the Security Council stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

It also emphasized the need for the continued support of the democratic transition in Myanmar.

Guterres said Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy for Myanmar, had the first contact Friday with the military since the coup and expressed the UN’s strong opposition to the takeover.

According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, she reiterated to Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Gen. Soe Win the secretary-general’s strong condemnation of the military’s action that disrupted the democratic reforms that were taking place in the country.

Schraner Burgener also reiterated her call for the immediate release of all detainees and emphasized the need for progress on the safe and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, Dujarric said, calling it an important conversation.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, when the military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group.

The security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes. A year ago, the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice, ordered Myanmar to do all it can to prevent genocide against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

Guterres said Schraner Burgener is also in contact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Brunei, which chairs the 10-nation regional group, including Myanmar, issued a statement Monday noting the bloc’s principles include the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The statement encouraged the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar, but it made no mention of any action by ASEAN to take the lead in returning Myanmar to a democratic path.

On Friday, the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia expressed concern about the coup and asked ASEAN foreign ministers to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.

Indonesia and Malaysia take the political situation in Myanmar seriously, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta.

This is a step backward in Myanmar’s democratic transition. We fear the political unrest in Myanmar could disturb the security and stability in this region.

Widodo also said both countries remain concerned about the Rohingya issue, saying all ASEAN members must respect the organization’s charter particularly the rule of law, good governance, democracy, human rights, and constitutional government.

ASEAN’s members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Guterres said the UN is also in contact with the 15-member Security Council, which is in charge of international peace and security.

We will do everything we can to make the international community united in making sure that conditions are created for this coup to be reversed, the secretary-general said.

Also Read: Myanmar military seizes power: All eyes on Myanmar’s Army Chief Aung Hlaing

Myanmar military seizes power: All eyes on Myanmar's Army Chief Aung Hlaing

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is in the limelight, as the military seized power in a coup against the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of her NLD party in Myanmar.

A report by the Reuters stated that Myanmar’s military is notoriously reclusive and even sophisticated observers know little about its inner workings.

Here are some key facts about its leader and the army’s enduring role in the political system:

MILITARY’S ROLE IN POLITICS

The military ruled directly for nearly 50 years after a 1962 rebellion and had long seen itself as the guardian of national unity.

As the architect of Myanmar’s 2008 constitution, the military enshrined a permanent role for itself in the political system. It gets an unelected quota of 25% of parliamentary seats and its chief appoints ministers of defence, interior and border affairs, ensuring a key stake in politics, which has made for an awkward power-sharing arrangement with the NLD.

Many members of the party, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for years suffered persecution for opposing the former military rule.

SLOW AND STEADY RISE

Min Aung Hlaing, 64, steered clear of the political activism that was widespread at the time when he studied law at Yangon University in 1972-1974. “He was a man of few words and normally kept a low profile,” one classmate told Reuters in 2016.

While fellow students joined demonstrations, Min Aung Hlaing made annual applications to join the premier military university, the Defence Services Academy (DSA), succeeding on his third attempt in 1974.

According to a member of his DSA class, who spoke to Reuters in 2016 and who still sees the army chief at annual class reunions, he was an average cadet.

“He was promoted regularly and slowly,” said the classmate, adding that he had been surprised to see Min Aung Hlaing rise beyond the officer corps’ middle ranks.

FROM SOLDIER TO POLITICIAN

Min Aung Hlaing took over the running of the military in 2011 as a transition to democracy began. Diplomats in Yangon said that by the onset of Suu Kyi’s first term in 2016, Min Aung Hlaing had transformed himself from taciturn soldier into a politician and public figure.

Observers noted his use of Facebook to publicise activities and meetings with dignitaries and visits to monasteries. His official profile attracted hundreds of thousands of followers before being taken down in the wake of the army’s offensive against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017.

Min Aung Hlaing studied other political transitions, diplomats and observers have told Reuters, and has made much of the need to avoid the chaos seen in Libya and other Middle Eastern countries after regime change in 2011.

The commander-in-chief has never shown any sign he was prepared to give up the military’s 25% of seats in parliament nor of allowing any change to the clause in the constitution that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president.

The recent complaints by the army of irregularities in voter lists for a Nov. 8 general election which, as expected, delivered another sweeping victory to Suu Kyi’s party, have been accompanied by cryptic comments about abolishing the charter.

Min Aung Hlaing extended his term at the helm of the military for another five years in February 2016, a step that surprised observers who expected him to step aside that year during a regular army leadership reshuffle.

SANCTIONS

A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighbouring Bangladesh. U.N. investigators have said Myanmar’s military operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent”.

In response, the United States imposed sanctions on Min Aung Hlaing and three other military leaders in 2019 and several court cases in various international courts, including the International Court of Justice, are going on.

Also in 2019, U.N. investigators urged world leaders to impose targeted financial sanctions on companies linked to the military.

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Aung San Suu Kyi's Party Wins Majority in Myanmar Election

The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has won an absolute victory in the Myanmar polls.

The NLD has so far won 346 seats, more than the 322 seats needed to form the next government.

It comes days after the party led by Aung San Suu Kyi claimed victory based on early results.

NLD spokesperson Monywa Aung Shin said its "landslide" victory showed the people's support for the party, but added that it would have to "work on forming a national unity government", reported news agency Reuters.

Meanwhile, India, Japan and Singapore had earlier congratulated the NLD on their win.