9 UN Security Council members urge a halt to airstrikes by Myanmar’s military

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Nine members of the United Nations Security Council condemned “indiscriminate” airstrikes by Myanmar’s military against civilians before an envoy briefed the council Monday as part of regional efforts to implement a peace plan that has so far been largely ineffective.

The plan, adopted in April 2021 shortly after the military seized power in a takeover that sparked a civil war, calls for the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation by a special envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

Veteran diplomat Alounkeo Kittikhoun — the special envoy to Myanmar from this year’s ASEAN chair, Laos, and a former U.N. ambassador — addressed a closed council meeting on behalf of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Kittikhoun committed to implementing ASEAN’s “five-point consensus” for peace in Myanmar through continued “quiet diplomacy,” according to a council diplomat familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

The military leadership in Myanmar has so far ignored the plan, and violence and the humanitarian crisis in the country have been growing at a rapid pace.

Before the council meeting, nine of the 15 council members stood before reporters to support a statement read by Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, which echoed ASEAN’s call urging Myanmar’s armed forces, “in particular, to cease its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

The military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, and is facing an armed pro-democracy resistance movement that is assisted by ethnic minority fighting forces. The military stepped up airstrikes after the three ethnic minority armed groups launched a major offensive in late October, seizing towns in the country’s northeast, along with major border crossings for trade with China.

The nine council members — Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, South Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States — said that, three years after the military takeover, more than 18 million people need humanitarian aid and 2.6 million remain displaced.

At an ASEAN ministerial meeting on Jan. 29, Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith told reporters that Thailand was moving ahead with plans to provide more humanitarian assistance to Myanmar. The nine nations reiterated the council’s appeal for improved humanitarian access.

Meanwhile more than 600 members of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police have fled their posts and taken shelter in Bangladesh to escape fighting between Myanmar security forces and an ethnic minority army, an official with Bangladesh’s border agency said Monday.

It is the first time that Myanmar forces have been known to flee into Bangladesh since an alliance of ethnic minority armies in Myanmar launched an offensive against the military government late last year.

By Associated Press

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