UN chief deeply concerned over Myanmar situation: spokesperson
Updated 14:21, 15-Feb-2021

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, including the increasing use of force and the reported deployment of additional armored vehicles to major cities, his spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday.

"He calls on Myanmar's military and police to ensure the right of peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals. Reports of continued violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel are unacceptable," according to the statement. 

"Ongoing arrests of political leaders, government officials, civil society actors and media representatives are deeply concerning as are the restrictions on internet and communication services," the statement said. "They must not be disrupted to ensure the right to freedom of expression, which includes access to information." 

Guterres reiterated that the United Nations firmly supports the Myanmar people in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.  

He also urged Myanmar's military authorities to allow UN Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener "to visit Myanmar under agreeable conditions and to assess the situation first hand."

Demonstrators protest against the military takeover in Yangon, Myanmar, February 13, 2021. /Reuters

Demonstrators protest against the military takeover in Yangon, Myanmar, February 13, 2021. /Reuters

Armored vehicles, internet outage

The UN chief made the remarks in response to reports that the Myanmar military had deployed armored vehicles in major cities and cut internet access after protests over the detention of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets.   

Myanmar's military detained Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint and declared a state of emergency on February 1, alleging massive voting fraud in the general elections in November.  

Suu Kyi's detention on charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios was initially expected to expire on Monday, but her lawyer said she will be remanded in detention until Wednesday for a court hearing. 

"We came here to submit our power of attorney letter and discussed with the district judge. According to him, the remand is until the 17 and not today," Khin Maung Zaw told reporters in the capital Naypyitaw on Monday. 

As well as mass protests around the country, the military authorities are facing a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement that is crippling many of the functions of government. 

Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin on Sunday, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of whom said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity. 

On Sunday evening, armored vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the military takeover. 

An armored vehicle rides on a street during a protest in Yangon, Myanmar, February 14, 2021. /Reuters

An armored vehicle rides on a street during a protest in Yangon, Myanmar, February 14, 2021. /Reuters

On Monday, more than a dozen police trucks with four water cannon vehicles were deployed near the Sule Pagoda in central Yangon, which has been one of the main sites for protests in the commercial capital. 

Shortly after midnight, residents reported an internet outage. All four telecommunications networks were inaccessible from about 1 a.m. on Monday (1830GMT), they said.

China calls for dialogue, stability

China has called on all parties in Myanmar to "put the will and interests of the people of Myanmar first, properly handle differences through dialogue under the constitutional and legal framework and maintain political and social stability." 

Read more:

China hopes all sides in Myanmar will put people's interests first

U.S. imposes sanctions against Myanmar's military leaders, entities

Chen Xu, China's Permanent Representative to the UN's Geneva Office, on Friday urged the international community to help different sides in Myanmar carry out dialogue and reconciliation. 

"What is important now is that the international community, on the premise of respecting Myanmar's sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity, should help relevant parties in Myanmar carry out dialogue and reconciliation in line with the will and interests of people in Myanmar and support the mediation efforts of the ASEAN and the special envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar as well as her office," Chen said at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. 

(With input from Reuters)

(Cover: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020. /Reuters)

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