UN Security Council to meet over Myanmar crisis

A photo from Feb 6, 2021, showing a demonstration in Yangon against the military coup, and protesters demanding the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United Nations Security Council will meet on Friday (Jan 28) with a minister from Asean chair Cambodia to discuss the chaotic situation in Myanmar, one year after a coup ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, diplomatic sources said.

Cambodia currently heads Asean, and its Asean envoy to Myanmar, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, will attend the closed-door talks along with UN special envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer, the sources told AFP.

The minister is expected to report on the controversial visit to Myanmar in early January by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who met the junta in the first foreign leadership visit since the generals seized power in February last year.

Asean is divided over the thorny issue of Myanmar, and debate has swirled over how the regional bloc can help bring Myanmar out of the crisis.

Critics say Mr Hun Sen's visit risks legitimising the junta. During his trip, he did not meet Ms Suu Kyi, who was detained after the coup and now faces criminal and corruption charges.

Myanmar has "all the ingredients for civil war", Mr Sokhonn said this month.

Asean agreed in April last year to a "five-point consensus" aimed at reversing deteriorating conditions in Myanmar. The junta accepted the plan, but it has had little impact, and the military continues to suppress dissent - sometimes violently.

In a rare intervention on Monday at the UN General Assembly, Myanmar's Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who was sacked by the junta but remains in his UN position, urged the global body for "help and protection" for the country's population.

Meanwhile, the United States warned companies on Wednesday to be extremely wary of doing business in Myanmar, citing the risks of being linked to a military government involved in lawlessness and human rights abuse.

Those involved with businesses controlled by the military regime "run the risk of engaging in conduct that may expose them to significant reputational, financial and legal risks", including breaking sanctions and money laundering laws, according to a statement from six Cabinet-level departments.

Investors and traders were warned specifically to avoid state-owned enterprises, the gems and precious metals sector, real estate and construction projects, and the arms business.

"These entities and sectors have been identified as primary industries providing economic resources for Burma's military regime," the statement said, using the former popular name for the country.

The statement noted that the European Union and other countries have also placed restrictions on doing business with Myanmar since the military seized power a year ago.

"The military has unjustly arrested leaders of the democratically elected government, cut off utilities and travel, and committed serious human rights abuses and other abuses against individuals in Burma, including violently suppressing peaceful protests," the statement said.

It also noted that Myanmar has not adequately implemented standard measures to prevent terrorism financing and money laundering, exposing investors and traders to risks in those areas.

The statement, signed by the State, Treasury, Commerce, Labour and Homeland Security departments, as well as the US Trade Representative, stressed that it is only an advisory and not a legal order.

But it comes as a number of key foreign companies that have invested in the country have withdrawn as the military government continues to tighten control.

Last Friday, energy giants TotalEnergies and Chevron announced they were exiting Myanmar, following other large firms that have pulled out or frozen investment plans, including Norway's Telenor, British American Tobacco, Voltalia of France and Toyota.

"The situation, in terms of human rights and more generally the rule of law, which has kept worsening in Myanmar... has led us to reassess the situation," TotalEnergies said last week.

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