Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun at the United Nations Security Council open debate(25 May 2021)
Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations at the United Nations Security Council open debate on “Protection of civilians in armed conflicts”
(New York, 25 May 2021)
I thank Ambassador Zhang Jun of China and his team for timely convening this important open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Security Council’s adoption of the protection of civilians to its agenda – formally recognized the protection of civilians as matter of international peace and security. I thank the UN Secretary-General for his annual report. I also thank Mr. Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and Mr. Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC for their statements.
Protecting civilians must always be a top priority under every circumstance, not only in armed conflicts. When assessing the state of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, we can’t deny the fact that there is still great cause of concern. While reiterating the importance of protecting civilian populations and infrastructures, humanitarian and health workers, medical facilities including hospitals and other public facilities as well as schools and religious places continue to come under attack. The United Nations Security Council has set up the framework to protect the civilians in armed conflicts. We all appreciate these efforts. However, millions of people around the world including those in Myanmar are still suffering from the armed conflicts. Some become the victims of the conflicts. Those who are lucky and escape from the conflicts have to leave their homes and become displaced persons.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to apprise you of the current unfolding situation in Myanmar. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, the intensification of armed conflict in Myanmar as well as a violent crackdown against the peaceful protest movement have been targeting against civilians in a widespread and systematic manner by the murderous military.
Over 100 days, the military using unnecessary, disproportionate and lethal force to suppress demonstrations and civil disobedience movement have killed more than 800 individuals, at least 53 of them are children, while more than 5000 are still being arbitrarily arrested and detained. The escalation of conflict in Kayin, Kayah, Kachin, Chin and Northern Shan States has further intensified. The military airstrikes on the civilian areas caused deaths, injured and the internal displacement of many people, some even taking refuge in neighbouring countries such as India and Thailand. The recent attacks in Kayah and Chin are terrifying.
There has been widespread violence against humanitarian and medical workers and public facilities. According to the report of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar on 7 May 2021, medical professionals and healthcare workers, who are forefront in the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), are being systematically targeted by the military with killing, beating, torturing, abductions and enforced disappearances. As of the first half of May, there have been at least 158 reported attacks on medical facilities, health personnel and supplies in Myanmar. The military coup has endangered not only vital health services but also the COVID-19 pandemic response.
In the wake of the military coup, as we all have witnessed, the past over three months have been both heart-breaking and terrifying for Myanmar civilians. The brutal repression and continued escalation of violence places Myanmar on the brink of state collapse.
We all are witnessing that the UN Security Council has been calling for all states to develop national frameworks to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to ensure accountability to prevent violations of international law. But sadly what we all are seeing right now in Myanmar is the military’s brutal and systematic attacks against its own people with deadly arms. There is no sign of changing course or easing the violence. Safety and security of civilians in Myanmar is seriously endangered and threatened. We have been calling for urgent help from the international community including this esteemed Council which has the core responsibility for peace and security, and protection of civilians in the armed conflicts.. But any constructive and decisive action or measure has not been taken yet.
Since early May, there have been fightings between the military and people’s defense force in Mindat town, which was formed for the self-defense in response to increasing military violence against the civilians. Recently, on May 15, the military launched the coordinated attack against Mindat, has used indiscriminate deployment of heavy weaponry by land and air, widespread use of forced labor and human shields, and obstruction of delivery of basic humanitarian necessities for civilians including food, water, and access to medical care and supplies. Many local people in Mindat have to leave their homes because of the military air attacks.
There have been reported on the dire need for immediate medical aid in Mindat and the military arrested the healthcare workers who volunteered to provide medical assistance to the injured. This is violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law – plain and simple. Similar attacks have been taking place in parts of Kayah state. Urgent assistance and action from the international community is needed now for Chin and Kayah States.
Protection of civilians is ever so important in this difficult situation we are facing right now in Myanmar. Civilians in Myanmar are suffering in disproportionate war initiated by the military which does not uphold the fundamental principle of humanity. Abduction of civilians continues across the country, and still people are unwaveringly against the military rule after more than 100 days after the unlawful coup. The UN Security Council can and should do more to protect civilians in Myanmar.
Adhering to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the international community in particular the UN Security Council has to take effective collective measures including imposing sanctions against the military and declaring no fly zones in relevant areas in Myanmar for protection of civilians in armed conflict and subsequently prevention of possible crimes against humanity in Myanmar. The situation in Myanmar can only be addressed by the international community through a coordinated, decisive and timely manner. To save lives of innocent civilians including young people and protect the people from the continued atrocities committed by the military, the international community and the UN Security Council must act without further delay.
I thank you, Mr. President.