Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations at the UN General Assembly Plenary Meeting Agenda item 135: “The Responsibility to Protect and the Prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”
(New York, 17 May 2021)
First of all, I thank you for convening this very important debate on the Responsibility to Protect. I also welcome this year’s report of the Secretary-General focusing on advancing atrocity prevention. My delegation appreciates the recommendations provided in the report. I take note of the ongoing efforts by the Office on Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect in support of national, regional and international efforts to advance atrocity prevention and contribute to the implementation of the responsibility to protect.
The primary responsibility for protecting people rests with states. The international community should support states to fulfill that task. I believe these two pillars of R2P are universally accepted. On the third pillar where national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations, collective action must be taken in a timely and decisive manner. We are of the view that the scope and application of this pillar is what causes concerns. The challenge is to uphold the principle of R2P while preventing its misuse.
Despite this challenge, the international community and the United Nations cannot shy away from upholding the responsibility to protect populations from heinous crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The 2005 World Summit Outcome explicitly states that timely and decisive action is to be carried out “through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate”. We all share the view that it is not the role of the United Nations to replace the State in protecting people. However, when the people of a nation is helpless facing one of the four heinous crimes, the international community, through the UN Security Council in accordance with the Charter, must help lay the foundation for the State to reassure its responsibility to its population by taking timely and decisive response.
I understand that today’s debate is of thematic nature, not about a country specific one. However, I find it extremely hard not to relate relevance of the topic to what has been happening in my country.
From 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military has been conducting a systematic and targeted campaign of attacks against the civilian population. Confronting those atrocities, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Myanmar citizens have been bravely engaging in peaceful protest and desperately calling for the restoration of democracy in our country. Yet even as we seek to protect our democracy, defend our liberty and preserve our humanity, the military is attacking us in the streets, in the houses, in the schools, in the hospitals, in the villages, in the places of worship, among others.
To date, the military has extra-judicially, arbitrarily and summarily executed almost 800 innocent civilians. The military has tortured many hundreds more and subjected them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Using live ammunition and assault weapons, the Military has and is even now attacking the civilian population with extreme brutality and without any exceptions. The victims of these crimes against humanity include not only anti-military protesters, but also children, innocent bystanders and people who are peacefully in their own homes. Recently in Mindat, Chin State, the military attacked the town by helicopters and shot inside the town with heavy artilleries in an indiscriminate and unproportionate manner. The military even used human shield of civilians while attacking the town.
In a brazen strike against democratic principles, the victims of the military’s systematic and targeted attacks against the civilian population include democratically-elected civilian political leaders, their supporters and civil activists. Myanmar civilians are being detained without charge and without any due process rights. Many of them have died in the custody of the security forces. As a direct result of these atrocities, a wave of civilians has been forced to leave their homes to seek safety in other parts of the country or abroad.
The horrifying atrocities and violence committed by the security forces against civilians are well documented and widely reported. The National Unity Government has handed to the relevant UN human rights bodies more than 500,000 pieces of documentary evidence of these crimes against humanity being committed by the military against the civilian population of Myanmar. The military is violating fundamental and peremptory norms of international law on a daily basis. The world can see every day that the military’s conduct confirms that it does not and has no intention of abiding by its international law obligations. The military, including its High Command which operates under the name of the State Administration Council, does not have any legitimacy. In a world governed by the rule of law, it cannot legitimately represent Myanmar. It does not act for the people or the country. It acts only for itself and in opposition to the people of Myanmar and their democratically elected representatives.
The National Unity Government is composed of the democratically-elected leaders of Myanmar, representatives of ethnic groups in the country. It enjoys the widespread support of the civilian population in its efforts to restore democracy, protect human rights and support humanitarian assistance in Myanmar.
On behalf of the people of Myanmar and the National Unity Government, I wish to sincerely appreciate all member states, United Nations Organs and organizations that have strongly condemned the military coup, denounced continued brutality committed by the military junta and stood with the people of Myanmar at this challenging time.
However, the calls of the international community including the Security Council only received total disregard from the military junta. On 27 March Armed Forces Day, the security forces murdered more than 130 unarmed civilians across the country in a single day, making it “a day of terror and shame”. We, the people of Myanmar, need international support. We look to the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole for a strong, decisive, unified and timely response to this horrible situation. The international community and the United Nations have responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar.
In line with the principle that a state has the responsibility to protect its own people from crimes against humanity, the NUG together with the people have taken all possible ways and means to defend our own people from the military’s inhumane and brutal acts. We urge the international community to adhere to this principle and to take the responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from the possible crimes against humanity committed by the military.
Taking timely and decisive action under the principle of R2P, we should not rule out Article-42 intervention. However, it is not the only tool available to the United Nations and the Security Council. The Secretary-General, through his 13 annual reports to the General Assembly, including his report on timely and decisive response (A/66/874-S/2012/578), has offered a number of implementation tools. Today, I wish to appeal to the UN member states, particularly the Security Council, to apply the following immediately:
protect the people of Myanmar from crimes against humanity committed by the military;
declare no-fly zones in relevant areas to avoid further bloodshed caused by the military airstrikes;
impose targeted, coordinated and tougher sanctions against the military and its businesses;
impose global arms embargo against the military;
freeze financial assets of the military and individual members of the regime, and cut off financial inflows into the military;
suspend foreign direct investment until democratically elected government is restored in Myanmar;
provide humanitarian assistance to people in need, and provide shelter on humanitarian grounds to people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and elsewhere;
hold those responsible for atrocity crimes accountable; and
give recognition to the NUG as a legitimate government of the people of Myanmar.
In conclusion, Mr. President, since the February 1 coup, in street arts, protest placards, candle light vigils and social media, the people of Myanmar have been calling, “We need R2P”. In the face of inhumane cruelty and constant threat posed by the Military, Myanmar people feel helpless because it is not fighting between two warring parties. Rather, it is the entire population versus the well-armed brutal military which is determined to use any possible means to silence people into submission.
We hope the UN Security Council and the international community upholds the responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar and accordingly will act without further delay.
I thank you, Mr. President.
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