Myanmar’s UN envoy travels to strife-torn country for the first time

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The United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, traveled to the Southeast Asian nation on Tuesday.

She is visiting Myanmar for the first time since being appointed to the post in October, and a day after Myanmar’s ruling junta sentenced deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional six years in prison.

Heyzer’s predecessor, Christine Schraner Burgener, a Swiss diplomat, was constantly blocked by Myanmar’s ruling generals from from visiting the country.

Heyzer’s agenda under wraps

Heyzer “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns as well as other priority areas of her mandate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Dujarric gave no details on whether Heyzer would meet with Myanmar’s ruling military or its former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The Nobel laureate was arrested after the military overthrew her elected government in February 2021.

Suu Kyi’s location has been kept under tight wraps since, and it is not clear whether Heyzer could meet her, which has long been a UN demand.

Suu Kyi has so far been tried on multiple charges at a special court in capital city, Naypyitaw. The 77-year-old already faces 11 corruption charges, with each of the charges being punishable by up to 15 years in prison. She was handed another six years on Monday.

Critics say charges are politically motivated and meant to keep her out of power. 

Myanmar’s military rulers agreed to a “five-point consensus” with the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) in April 2021 to restore peace and stability to the country, but have done little to halt violence in the country, human rights groups say.

UN Security Council condemns worsening situation

Additionally, Heyzer’s visit comes after the UN Security Council roundedly condemned Myanmar’s ruling junta for the execution of four pro-democracy activists last month.

“The members of the Security Council called for the pursuance of dialogue with all parties concerned and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar,” read a Security Council press release at the end of July.

Heyzer’s visit “follows her extensive consultations with actors from across the political spectrum, civil society as well as communities affected by the ongoing conflict,” Dujarric said.

UN human rights chief visits Bangladesh

Meanwhile, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet arrived in neighboring Bangladesh on Sunday for a four-day visit to the country, which will include meeting Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal crackdown in their homeland in 2017.

A UN fact-finding mission concluded this July that the military campaign by Myanmar had included “genocidal acts,” though Myanmar denies the charges.

Bachelet met with rights activists in Dhaka on Monday, and is set to visit the camps housing nearly half a million Rohingya refugees.

Bangaldesh has also come under fire for its own rights record under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whom Bachalet will meet during her trip.

rm/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP) 

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