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SG/SM/17902
1 July 2016

Secretary-General Cites Escalating Tensions, Humanitarian Access Issues, in Remarks to Meeting of Partnership Group on Myanmar

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Meeting of the Partnership Group on Myanmar, in New York today:

I welcome you to this Meeting of the Partnership Group on Myanmar, and I thank you for your participation.  I especially welcome His Excellency Hau Do Suan, who is representing Myanmar today as its Permanent Representative in New York.

Since our gathering here in September last year, a historic transition has taken place in Myanmar.  Once again, I congratulate the people of Myanmar for their remarkably peaceful, dignified and enthusiastic participation in the elections of 8 November 2015.  I would also like to acknowledge the leadership of former President U Thein Sein.  His steadfast commitment to reform helped achieve this defining moment.

The election results clearly demonstrate that the people of Myanmar recognize the great sacrifice made by the National League for Democracy and its leaders over the past decades.  They have delivered an overwhelming popular mandate.  They have also expressed their high expectation that the new Government will transform the political landscape in the country and meet the aspirations of its people.

I underlined these points in my recent telephone conversations with President U Htin Kyaw and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The new Administration has wisely embarked on the path of dialogue and cooperation with military and civil society leaders and a wide array of political and economic stakeholders.  I believe this will help consolidate the path towards national reconciliation and a truly harmonious, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and prosperous democracy.  The people of Myanmar count on the new Government to continue its patient and sustained effort to empower all sections of the population and transfer power to civilian structures.

Foreign Minister and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the senior officials in the Government have expressed keen interest in strengthening cooperation with the international community, including the United Nations.  Incidentally, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, concluded her latest 12-day visit to the country today.

Our support is needed in advancing the peace process, achieving Myanmar’s development goals and addressing major challenges such as the situation in Rakhine State.  In a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 May, the United Nations country team underlined its commitment to working closely with the new Government and other national partners to help the country achieve inclusive and equitable socioeconomic growth, in keeping with the core objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind.

In dealing with national reconciliation, the new Government has begun to grapple with the complex sensitivities and unresolved issues related to engaging with both signatory and non-signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.  The objective is a political dialogue process that will be unifying, forward-looking and inclusive.

A new National Reconciliation and Peace Centre under Government auspices has replaced the previous Myanmar Peace Centre.  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has designated Tin Myo Win to lead the peace process as Chief Negotiator on the Government side.  Some members of the previous Government negotiating team have also been retained to ensure continuity.

On 27 April, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi invited all ethnic armed organizations to a broad-based political conference.  The “Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference” is widely seen as an opportunity to advance the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, or NCA.  It should address the concerns of non-signatories while ensuring a single coherent track of negotiations through structures such as the Union Political Dialogue Joint Committee.  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed the wish to hold the Panglong Conference by the end of August.

Meanwhile, efforts to implement earlier commitments made under the NCA are also being made by the various concerned parties.  At the request of the Government, the army and the ethnic armed organizations, the United Nations is helping to establish a platform to help provide balanced international support to the Joint Monitoring Committee established under the NCA.  I welcome the willingness of major partners such as China and the United Kingdom to support this initiative.

In her meeting with my Special Adviser on 25 May in Nay Pyi Taw, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi indicated her Government’s interest in continued support through the good offices of the United Nations.  The United Nations will continue such support with the agreement of all relevant partners.

I am concerned at the recent escalation of tensions in Shan and Kachin States and their impact on the peace process.  I would like to encourage all parties to resolve their differences at the negotiating table.  Providing unimpeded humanitarian access to the civilian populations affected by these conflicts is also an important issue that will need to be addressed.

A continuing cause of serious concern is the fragile humanitarian situation in Rakhine and desperate plight of the Rohingya and other Muslim communities there.  This is not only an issue of respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, but also one of respect for the dignity of human beings, irrespective of issues of status or citizenship.

The new Government is trying to address the complex issues surrounding this problem.  I would like to underline the urgent need to address the basic issue of citizenship and status.  It is also essential to address lack of access to health care, sanitation, education and livelihoods.  Failure to do so could trigger more waves of beleaguered and vulnerable people risking their lives by taking to the seas in search of a better life elsewhere.

While the number of irregular migrants from Rakhine has recently decreased, failure to alleviate the current conditions will have regional implications, as we have already witnessed.  The challenges facing Rakhine State encompass human rights, political, humanitarian and development issues.

These are inextricably linked.  The Rohingya are subject to a multitude of human rights violations, and there is little or no accountability.  They suffer severe discriminatory restrictions on freedom of movement and permission for marriage.  The camps housing internally displaced persons were meant to be temporary, but have now been there for nearly four years.  While there has been no recent major outbreak of violence, public outbursts of communal hatred and intolerance towards the Rohingya Muslim population continue.

I welcome the determination shown by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior Government officials to adopt a “different approach” to the crisis in Rakhine, and their commitment to address international concerns.  She has called for concrete action within the first 100 days of the new Administration, including the issuance of identity cards.  The Government has also initiated the formation of a Working Committee on Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine State.

It will be important to establish early-warning measures to track potential outbreaks of tension, and to promote interfaith harmony and durable peaceful co-existence.  I reiterate my call for the early establishment of an office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights with a full mandate in Myanmar.  I also call on the international community to help address the longer-term developmental needs of all vulnerable communities.

Myanmar stands on the threshold of a period of great opportunity.  The country counts on the international community to provide effective support.  I thank Member States and other partners for their commitment to date, including to my good offices.

Myanmar has released political prisoners, broadened space for freedom of speech, increased transparency in most areas of its political and economic activity and held historic elections.  It can thus be argued that the country has met most of the benchmarks set forth by Member States in successive resolutions of the General Assembly.  At the same time, major challenges remain, particularly relating to the peace process and the situation in Rakhine.  Let us therefore commit to working together with the Government to support continued reform and promote peace, human rights and sustainable development for all the people of Myanmar.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.