SINGAPORE: United Nations chief Antonio Guterres backed the right of the Myanmar people to peacefully express their rejection of this week’s military takeover that displaced the country’s elected civilian government.
“Coups are not acceptable in the modern world and I reject and condemn the coup,” said the UN Secretary-General on Saturday (Feb 6) in an exclusive interview with CNA.
“I would strongly recommend the people of Myanmar to express their grievances but to do so in a peaceful way.”
Mr Guterres’ comments come in the wake of Monday’s move during which Myanmar’s military declared a state of emergency and seized power. In an early morning raid, the army detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and a raft of parliamentarians and activists.
“BASIC HUMAN RIGHT”
Mr Guterres said the freedom of expression is a basic human right and urged the military “not to have any violence in relation to the people of Myanmar”.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting after news of the military takeover broke and has called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as well as others detained by the military. But unlike the UN chief, it stopped short of actually condemning the coup.
The joint statement by the Security Council had been held up, with one diplomat telling AFP that China and Russia had “asked for more time”.
China is one of Myanmar’s biggest foreign investors and earlier this week, China’s state-controlled Xinhua news agency downplayed the significance of the military takeover, referring to it as a “major cabinet reshuffle”.
The UN chief told CNA they would do “everything possible to make sure that (Aung San Suu Kyi) is released”, but admitted the UN is powerless to guarantee that the de-facto leader of Myanmar would not face long-term house arrest again.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010. She has not been seen publicly since the coup. The Myanmar police have charged her with illegally importing communications equipment, after finding walkie-talkies during a search of her home.
Mr Guterres assured the people of Myanmar that “we would be doing everything we can in order to make the international community aware”.
Watch the full interview with Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General on “In Conversation” Feb 10, 9pm SIN/HK on CNA.