A U.N. special envoy warned the 15-nation Security Council on Wednesday that “a bloodbath is imminent” in Myanmar if it does not act to curb the violent military crackdown against protesters, according to a copy of her remarks obtained by CBS News.
“Looking back ten years from now, how will history judge this inaction?” Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Christine Schraner Burgener asked the diplomats. “I hope you can act while there is still time to avoid the worst outcome by overcoming caution and disagreement.”
The violence in Myanmar, sparked by a February 1 coup of the nation’s democratically elected leader, intensified over the weekend, whenwere killed by the military junta’s security forces in what appeared to be the bloodiest day yet of the conflict between protesters and the junta.
Schraner Burgener said in her remarks that more than 520 people have been killed since the violence began, condemning the “widespread and systemic attacks on the civilian population” by military forces.
“Already vulnerable groups requiring humanitarian assistance including ethnic minorities and the Rohingya people will suffer most, but inevitably, the whole country is on the verge of spiraling into a failed state,” she said.
“I will remain open to dialogue and continue to signal this but if we wait only for when [the military leaders] are ready to talk, the ground situation will only worsen. A bloodbath is imminent,” Schraner Burgener added.
The Biden administration on Monday announced that it was suspending trade with Myanmar until it reinstated a democratically elected government. But as CBS News previously reported, the generals now running the country seem undeterred — likely due to continued support from China and Russia.
She called on the Security Council, which includes China and Russia, to provide “a firm, unified and resolute response,” adding, “This Council must consider potentially significant action that can reverse the course of events in Myanmar.”
The United States’ U.N. Ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Wednesday that if the decision to suspend trade did not curb the violence against civilians, the Biden administration would “have to look at how we might do more in that area.”
“I can’t define that for you right now, but it’s not something that we’re going to push aside,” she said.
The Security Council issued a unanimous statement condemning the violence on March 10. But as the death toll mounted, U.N. representatives from the U.S. and the U.K. had hoped for a statement on next steps.
As the Council’s closed consultations continued Wednesday, the prospect of a statement seemed less likely. While the council was meeting virtually, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun issued a statement decrying the idea of applying “one-sided pressure” to the conflict.
“The international community should, on the basis of respecting Myanmar’s sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity, step up diplomatic efforts and encourage the parties to narrow differences so as to find a way out,” the ambassador said. “One-sided pressure and calling for sanctions or other coercive measures will only aggravate tension and confrontation and further complicate the situation, which is by no means constructive.”
Despite China’s statement, calls for action have mounted. Myanmar’s Special Envoy to the U.N. called for “immediate action” on Wednesday to impose an arms embargo and to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court “to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes committed by the military.”
“The military’s cruelty is too severe and many [Ethnic Armed Organizations] EAOs are taking clear stances of opposition, increasing the possibility of civil war at an unprecedented scale,” Schraner Burgener said.
“[The people of Myanmar] deserve to know why the Myanmar security forces are allowed to continue to go on extra-judiciary killings, why military snipers are shooting at unarmed protesters, why they can arbitrarily detain, torture people and abduct the bodies of those killed,” Schraner Burgener added. “How do we explain to the parents who lost their children by indiscriminate shootings these actions can continue?”