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Myanmar is a 'growing threat to international security'

US issues stark warning to UN as anti-regime forces launch drone attacks on Naypyidaw
Members of ethnic rebel group, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), patrol near Namhsan Township in Myanmar's northern Shan State in this March 9, 2023 photo. Myanmar's opposition National Unity Government said its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force, attacked the national capital with drones on April 4, 2024

Members of ethnic rebel group, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), patrol near Namhsan Township in Myanmar's northern Shan State in this March 9, 2023 photo. Myanmar's opposition National Unity Government said its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force, attacked the national capital with drones on April 4, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 05, 2024 09:09 AM GMT
Updated: April 05, 2024 09:31 AM GMT

The United States warned the UN Security Council on April 4 that Myanmar poses a growing threat to international security while the UK called for more humanitarian assistance and China pledged to play a more constructive role in stabilizing the three-year conflict.

At a rare open meeting by the council on Myanmar, its first since February 2019, the Security Council was also told the civil war had weakened transnational security and its instability had led to a crisis with global ramifications.

“The situation in Myanmar presents a growing threat to international security, particularly for those in the Indo-Pacific,” said US Ambassador Robert Wood, who is also its Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs at the UN.

“Myanmar has become the world’s largest opium producer, a hub for transnational organized crime, and a driver of several major refugee crises,” he said. “We are horrified to hear continuing reports of village burnings, torture, beheadings, and other brutal acts committed amid the conflict.”

Civil war in Myanmar, which erupted after the military seized power from an elected government in early 2021, has escalated in recent months with the junta losing unprecedented ground to opposition ethnic armed organizations (EASOs) amid a dry season offensive.

As the security council was meeting overnight, the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) said its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (PDF), had launched 13 drone strikes on Naypyidaw airport, Zeyathiri Township and the military’s headquarters and Aye Lar Air Force base.

The military confirmed 13 drones were shot down, adding no casualties were reported while the NUG told Reuters news agency: “We have plans to do more... With this attack on their nerve center, Naypyidaw, we want to highlight that they don't have a safe place [to hide]."

In New York, the Security Council was also handed a grim report detailing starvation, a health system in turmoil, exposure to landmines, and constant fear, especially since conscription was introduced.

The UK urged the Security Council to galvanize the political process against the junta, address the humanitarian situation, and appoint a special envoy to Myanmar. 

“We will not allow Myanmar to become a forgotten crisis,” the UK Ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said. “We reiterate our call for renewed efforts to build towards a peaceful, inclusive Myanmar and a better future for the people of Myanmar.”

China, which has supplied arms to EAOs along its border, said it would work to stabilize the situation among those anti-regime forces fighting alongside the PDF and urged support for a five-point peace plan put forward by ASEAN about two years ago.

That plan, however, has been widely discredited by the NUG, EAOs, and independent analysts and academics as unworkable and for having failed to push the peace process forward. Meanwhile, the UN also came under fire with the open meeting criticized for being too little too late.

Among the critics was John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, who noted, “Myanmar’s already abysmal human rights situation is getting worse.”

“The Security Council should take more meaningful steps to address rights concerns, including instituting an arms embargo, referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, and imposing targeted sanctions on military-owned companies.

“Regional efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] have been utterly inadequate,” he said.

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