UN Chief Names Singaporean as Myanmar Special Envoy 

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - U.N. official Noeleen Heyzer from Singapore, left, holds the "peace torch" with Zambia's Inonge Mbikusita Lawineka at the opening of a conference in The Hague on May 12, 1999.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment Monday of Singaporean Noeleen Heyzer as his new special envoy on Myanmar.

FILE - In this May 28, 2021, file photo, U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener speaks during a press conference, in Tokyo.

She will succeed Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland, who will step down Sunday after three-and-a-half years in the post. Schraner Burgener has spent the past nine months dealing with the fallout from the post-November election military coup, which has mired Myanmar in chaos and violence. More than 1,100 civilians have been killed, thousands jailed and more than 250,000 displaced.

Heyzer, 73, is a social scientist and former U.N. official. Her U.N. biography says she was the first woman to serve as the executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific from 2007 to 2014.

She also worked closely with regional bloc ASEAN and the Myanmar government on recovery efforts after Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. The tropical storm devasted the country and killed more than 140,000 people.

Heyzer was former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser for Timor-Leste from 2013 to 2015, involved in peace-building, state-building and sustainable development. She was also the executive director of UNIFEM, the precursor of U.N. Women, from 1994 to 2007.

She will have her work cut out for her.

The Myanmar military has ignored international pressure to reverse its February power grab and return power to the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD). Violence has spread across the country, and the NLD’s National Unity Government has formed its own People’s Defense Force.

“Myanmar is rapidly moving towards the abyss,” Schraner Burgener warned on Friday.