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UN: Myanmar junta must immediately restart democratic transition

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Myanmar junta to “immediately” restart democracy, saying it was “the only way” to stop the country’s escalating crisis.

“The situation in Myanmar is an unending nightmare for the people and a threat to peace and security across the region,” Guterres told reporters on Saturday after meeting the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I urge the authorities of Myanmar to listen to their people, release political prisoners and get the democratic transition back on track immediately. That is the only way to stability and peace.”

The secretary-general also expressed that the world, including the UN, had “failed in relation to Myanmar”.

Myanmar has spiralled into bloody conflict since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February last year, with thousands killed.

The escalating crisis dominated a summit of the ASEAN regional bloc, which has led so far fruitless diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed.

READ MORE: ASEAN summit begins in Cambodia with focus on Myanmar

Five-point consensus

Guterres said it was vital that a peace plan agreed with the junta in April last year to end the chaos in Myanmar, which has so far not been enforced, came into effect.

Increasingly frustrated ASEAN leaders on Friday tasked their foreign ministers with coming up with a concrete plan to implement the “five-point consensus”.

They also gave their blessing to an ASEAN special envoy meeting opposition groups in Myanmar. The move drew a furious response from the junta, which regards the dissident outfits as “terrorists”.

Guterres expressed hope ASEAN would be able to pressure the member state to comply with its plan for peace over the next year.

The plan largely puts the onus on Indonesia when it takes over the group’s rotating chair in 2023 to develop measurable indicators and a timeline for Myanmar to implement the consensus.

Indonesia has been one of the ASEAN countries most outspoken about the need to do more to address the situation in Myanmar, and Guterres told reporters he felt “the Indonesian government will be able to push forward the agenda in a positive way.”

The ASEAN decision announced on Friday includes asking the UN and other “external partners” for assistance in supporting the group’s efforts.

ASEAN’s peace plan calls for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all sides.

READ MORE: UN envoy: Myanmar crisis deepening under military rule

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