New Special Envoy of the United Nations on Myanmar; Battles in Myawaddy, Northern Rakhine, and the Border of China

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 05 Scenes

MoeMaKa, April 06, 2024

New Special Envoy of the United Nations on Myanmar; Battles in Myawaddy, Northern Rakhine, and the Border of China

It has been announced that Ms. Julie Bishop, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, has been appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar.

Prior to Ms. Bishop, the last person to hold this position was Noeleen Heyzer from Singapore. It is noted that Ms. Bishop brings extensive political, legal, management, and senior leadership experience to the role. Observers are eager to see how she will navigate and address the complex issues facing Myanmar.

Myanmar’s political turmoil, armed conflicts, and wars have led to the displacement of 2.8 million people (according to United Nations OCHA statistics). While there is no exact count of armed casualties, civilian deaths are estimated to exceed 10,000. The number of individuals injured, maimed, and displaced due to fire is exceptionally high over the past three years.

While the appointment of a new UN Special Envoy is anticipated to yield positive outcomes, the scope of assistance international organizations can provide in resolving Myanmar’s political crisis and armed conflicts is limited. It is evident that achieving the goals of ending the ongoing political crisis, halting the armed civil war, and finding political resolutions is not a straightforward task. Despite China’s attempts to broker peace in border regions where it holds influence over certain ethnic armed groups, there are significant constraints.

The United Nations, while influential in humanitarian matters, lacks the same level of leverage as China over Myanmar’s political and military forces. The UN’s primary focus is expected to be on humanitarian assistance rather than political intervention. Efforts will likely concentrate on securing permission to provide aid and urging parties to refrain from targeting civilians in military operations. Given the absence of negotiations between leaders of the NLD, military council, or National Unity Government, the UN’s role may be limited to providing human rights and humanitarian aid.

This situation mirrors other global conflicts, such as the Ukraine-Russia war and Israel’s actions in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, where the UN’s ability to intervene politically is constrained. Despite its formation post-World War II to prevent global conflicts, the UN today primarily functions as a large social association. Security Council decisions often lack binding obligations or enforcement mechanisms. Recently, the UN Security Council convened an open-door meeting on Myanmar, resulting in an international agreement not to sell jet fuel to the military council’s aircraft.

As Ms. Bishop assumes her role as the UN Special Envoy, armed conflicts continue to ravage Myanmar. Ongoing battles in Kawkareik, southern Karen State, reports of attacks and capture of strategic camps near Myawaddy, and the seizure of the Lwegel border gate near Laiza in Kachin State dominate current news in Myanmar.

China has intervened to broker ceasefires in conflicts that erupted in northern Shan at the end of October. However, no ceasefire discussions have been initiated regarding battles involving the KIA since the ceasefire between the 3 Northern Brotherhood Alliance and the military council in early January. It remains unclear whether China’s influence over the KIA differs from its influence over the other members of the Northern Brotherhood Alliance, or if the Myanmar military council has not solicited Chinese intervention.

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