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UN Chief Demands Immediate Return to Democratic Rule in Myanmar

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has denounced the military coup in Myanmar and demanded an immediate return to democratic rule. Guterres condemned Myanmar’s repressive actions in his opening address to the 46th session of the UN Human rights Council.

Guterres departed from his lengthy speech on COVID-19 related violations to blast Myanmar’s military for its takeover of the country’s democratically elected government.

"We see the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations," Guterres said. "Restrictions of civic space. Attacks on civil society. Serious violations against minorities with no accountability, including what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population. The list goes on.”

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Guterres said coups have no place in our modern world. He praised the Human Rights Council for its recent and timely focus on this critical situation.

The council held an emergency session on the Myanmar crisis on February 12 and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all detained people, including the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Over the coming month, the council will examine the human rights records of Myanmar and many other countries accused of gross violations of human rights. The council will focus on ways in which COVID-19 has accelerated inequalities, setback progress on poverty reduction and deepened discrimination and racism.

Guterres said the pandemic has triggered a vicious circle of violations. He said unscrupulous leaders are using COVID-19 as a pretext to entrench their power and criminalize fundamental freedoms.

He said the virus has spurred resurgent neo-Nazism and white supremacist movements, as well as racially and ethnically motivated terrorism.

"The danger of these hate-driven movements is growing by the day. Let us call them what they are," Guterres said. "White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat. These and other groups have exploited the pandemic to boost their ranks through social polarization and political and cultural manipulation.”

UN Chief Guterres warned these extremist movements represented the number one internal security threat in several countries. He said global coordinated action was needed to defeat this grave and growing danger.

He noted similar global coordinated action was needed to defeat the pandemic, which has killed millions of people and ruined many more lives.