UN special envoy to visit Myanmar amid ‘deteriorating situation’

Military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi-led government last year and launched violent crackdown on protests

A senior UN official is visiting Myanmar this week, the United Nations said, on a rare visit that comes amid domestic political turmoil and fraying ties between Myanmar and its southeast Asian neighbours.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military overthrew an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi early last year and launched a bloody crackdown on protests that followed.

Noeleen Heyzer, the UN secretary general’s special envoy to Myanmar, is visiting after “extensive consultations with actors from across the political spectrum, civil society as well as communities affected by the ongoing conflict”, the United Nations said in a statement dated Monday.

Referring to a UN Security Council call for an immediate cessation of all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access, the United Nations said Ms Heyzer would “focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns”. It gave no more details of her visit.


Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told a pro-army media outlet that Ms Heyzer was due to arrive on Wednesday. “She will meet the country’s leader and other senior ministers,” he said, adding that no request had been made to meet Ms Suu Kyi.

The junta has not allowed an envoy from the Asean regional bloc to meet her.

A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to six years in prison after finding her guilty in four corruption cases.

The 77-year-old figurehead of Myanmar’s opposition to military rule has been charged with at least 18 offences ranging from graft to election violations, carrying combined maximum jail terms of nearly 190 years. Ms Suu Kyi had called the accusations absurd and denies all charges against her.

She was found guilty on Monday of misusing funds from the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation – an organisation she founded promoting health and education – to build a home, and leasing government-owned land at a discounted rate, the source said.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is being held in solitary confinement in a jail in the capital Naypyitaw, had already been sentenced to 11 years prison in other cases.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since last year when the military overthrew an elected government led by Ms Suu Kyi’s party, after it won a general election, and led a deadly crackdown on dissent.

Tens of thousands of people have been jailed and many tortured, beaten or killed, in what the United Nations has called crimes against humanity. The international community has imposed sanctions on the military and dismissed Ms Suu Kyi’s secretive trials as farcical.

“It’s a massive assault against her rights, and part of the campaign to bury her and the NLD forever,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, referring to her ousted party, the National League for Democracy.

The military government has previously said Ms Suu Kyi is being given due process by an independent judiciary and rejects foreign criticism as interference.

The daughter of the leader of Myanmar’s campaign for independence from British colonial led the country for five years during a brief period of tentative reforms before being forced from power in the February 2021 coup.

The military has ruled for five of the past six decades. – Reuters