Item 75 (c) of the preliminary list*
Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights
situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives
The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 75/238 and covers the period from 15 August 2020 to 14 August 2021. In addition to the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, the report focuses on the country’s democratic transition and the disruption of that process in the wake of the military takeover, on 1 February 2021, by the country’s armed forces, or Tatmadaw, following tensions over the general election held on 8 November 2020. Concerns are highlighted about violence that has escalated across the country since then and serious human rights violations, as well as the wider implications, including for the region, of the political crisis and political violence consisting largely of the brutal repression carried out by security forces. It is urgent to mount a unified international and regional response to help to put Myanmar back on the path to democratic reform. Such an effort must be accompanied by the immediate release of President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials, as well as by immediate humanitarian access and assistance, especially to vulnerable communities, among them the Rohingya Muslims, many of whom are living in exile in Bangladesh and elsewhere. The present report highlights that the opportunity to prevent the military from entrenching its rule could be narrowing and underscores the importance of supporting the democratic aspirations of the people of Myanmar. Finally, the Secretary-General reiterates his call for all sides to act in the greater interest of the country’s democratic reform, engage in meaningful dialogue, refrain from violence and fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 75/238, in which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to continue to provide his good offices and to pursue discussions relating to Myanmar, involving all relevant stakeholders, and to offer assistance to the Government of Myanmar, as well as to submit the report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, on all relevant issues addressed in the resolution to the Assembly at its seventy-sixth session. The present report covers the period from 15 August 2020 to 14 August 2021.
2. The reporting period was characterized by the military takeover of 1 February 2021, following which the country’s armed forces, or Tatmadaw, aimed to consolidate power, causing massive disruption to the country’s democratic transition. This event stood in contrast to the hope underlying the previous report of the Secretary-General that the general election of 8 November 2020 would further build on the important gains of recent times and become a unifying process. Ahead of the polls, the Secretary-General had advocated for peaceful, orderly and credible elections, which he described as an important opportunity to help to advance inclusive sustainable development, humanitarian action, human rights and democratic reforms, including civilian control over the military. He expressed the hope that the election would also help to pave the way for sustainable refugee returns in safety and dignity.
3. The election gave the incumbent National League for Democracy (NLD) a strong mandate. Tensions escalated between the civilian Government and the Tatmadaw, as the military contested the electoral process and outcome. On 1 February, on the eve of the swearing in of the newly elected legislative body, the Tatmadaw declared a state of emergency. This takeover meant a significant setback in key areas covered by the General Assembly in its resolution 75/238.
4. Before the military takeover, on 28 January, the Secretary-General had appealed to all actors to desist from any form of incitement or provocation, demonstrate leadership, adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the election. He urged the resolution of all electoral disputes through established legal mechanisms.
The Tatmadaw detained political leaders and other civilians, including civil society leaders and journalists. Since 1 February, repression has ensued and escalated on various fronts, resulting in hundreds of civilians killed, and many more wounded, thousands of arrests with no apparent due process and severe restrictions on fundamental rights for the population. These actions of the Tatmadaw have created instability throughout the country, with major implications, including for the region.
5. Throughout the reporting period, the United Nations has upheld its commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, including support for preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, the United Nations has been faced with increased restrictions hampering life-saving aid from reaching vulnerable communities, notably those in conflict-affected areas. Since February, previous efforts by the Organization to promote an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and amplify the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire with a collective new push for peace and reconciliation in Myanmar have been severely undermined.
6. The Secretary-General has repeatedly called on the military to respect the will of the people, to refrain from violence and repression, and to act in the greater interest of peace and stability. The same was emphasized by the Security Council in its presidential statement of 10 March, in which the Council condemned the violence against peaceful protesters and called for the release of all detained, as well as in a press statement of 4 February. In its resolution 75/238, adopted on 18 June 2021, the General Assembly called upon the Myanmar armed forces to respect the will of the people, to immediately release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Su u Kyi and all individuals arbitrarily detained, and to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to realize an inclusive, peaceful dialogue among all stakeholders. In the resolution, the Assembly also called on all Member States to prevent the flow of arms into the country.
7. Brutality by the security forces against people opposing the military takeover and the self-declared State Administrative Council, including those participating in the civil disobedience movement, has been wide-ranging. Those expressing opposition to the military and joining democratic movements, as well as their relatives and associates, have been subject to arbitrary killings and detentions, disappearances, night raids, intimidation, and torture. There have been numerous reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the security forces. There have also been numerous reports of acts of violence targeted at the security forces, such as the killing of individuals suspected of collaborating with the military. The Secretary-General has called for maximum restraint by all sides.
8. Since February, tensions have increased throughout the country, including in areas covered by the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and where there was relative peace before 1 February. Mostly in states and regions along the borders with Thailand, China and India, armed clashes have erupted between the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed organizations and newly formed civilian people’s defence forces, raising concern about regional implications of the crisis and the potential for a large-scale armed conflict.
9. The spread of violence has increased displacement in a country already grappling with a significant population of internally displaced persons. At the same time, the country’s health infrastructure has nearly come to a standstill following the military takeover of 1 February, against the backdrop of an already challenged system stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, COVID-19 and the takeover have paralysed the economy and led to millions of children and young people missing school.
10. In the current crisis, several actors advocating for the restoration of the country’s path to democratic reform have emerged. On 5 February 2021, representatives of NLD and other parties elected November 2020 formed the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to conduct parliamentary affairs (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw is the name of the country’s bicameral parliament), and announced the formation of the National Unity Government. The National Unity Government notably affirmed its commitment to seeking and coordinating humanitarian aid and engaging with the international community on behalf of the people of Myanmar. It also committed to promoting fundamental human rights, including greater inclusion of Ro hingya, and stated on 3 June that it would repeal the 1982 citizenship law and base citizenship on birth in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar citizens.
11. On 1 February, ASEAN encouraged dialogue, reconciliation and a return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar. On 24 April, ASEAN leaders meeting in Jakarta adopted what is known as the five-point consensus. They agreed that there should be an immediate cessation of violence, that a constructive dialogue should commence among all parties, that a special envoy of the ASEAN Chair should facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, and that ASEAN should provide humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.
12. Members of the Security Council and the General Assembly have highlighted their support for ASEAN and its five-point consensus. The Security Council also underlined its full support for the work of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar and encouraged complementarity of her work to that of ASEAN. The Secretary-General has repeatedly urged a robust international solution grounded in regional efforts, and stressed the need for a timely and comprehensive implementation of the ASEAN five-point consensus. He has also urged the release of all detainees and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Continued and strong complementarity between ASEAN and the United Nations is vital in helping to bring an end to the violence. The Secretary-General has also urged regional actors to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and find a peaceful way out of this crisis.
13. In support of that goal, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General has pursued active discussions with domestic and international leaders, in particular those in the region, to help to prevent further deterioration and find a political solution to the crisis. In follow-up to her engagement earlier in the reporting period, she visited the region from 9 April to 29 May.
14. Already vulnerable communities, particularly the Rohingya, need to be protected and it is critical that Member States continue to advocate for humanitarian access and provide support for humanitarian assistance.
15. To achieve national reconciliation and political stability, it remains essential to address impunity and ensure accountability for serious human rights violations. In the immediate term, it will be vital to provide full support for humanitarian activities such as bringing essential services to remaining Rohingya communities.
16. It is crucial that the United Nations country team and humanitarian partners have safe and unimpeded access to the populations in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance. In addition, the sustainable closure of displacement camps consistent with international norms and practice is critical. As always, the Organization’s humanitarian response in Myanmar will be guided by the internationally recognized principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity.