The United Nations and its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are delivering fewer results and neglecting their responsibilities to the Myanmar people, argued a report released this week, as opposition rebels in the war-torn country claimed 21 children were injured by another military strike.
During an online press conference, the National Unity Government (NUG) said the children and their teacher were injured by shrapnel in a public school housed next to a monastery in the northwest Sagaing Region amid an attack launched by the Light Infantry Battalion 120 under Division 33.
“Among the injured were six 7-year-old children, five 8-year-old children, four 10-year-old children, three 11-year-old children, two 12-year-old children, and one 14-year-old child with overall affected children of 12 males and 9 females,” an NUG spokesperson said.
It also said the number of children killed in military strikes since the junta ousted an elected government in February 2021 now stands at 491. Most of those deaths were inflicted by air strikes and artillery attacks, while curious kids tinkering with unexploded ordnance had also died.
The September 27 attack has been added to the growing list referred to the U.N. and the International Criminal Court as a war crime for investigations and potential prosecution.
However, as the Wednesday press conference was being held, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) released its latest report on the crisis in Myanmar, accusing U.N. member states and their intergovernmental forums of failing to act.
“During the previous democracy uprising in 1988, the U.N. tried to use engagement with the military junta and it was a failure,” Linn Yaung of Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement said in the report. “We ended up with military rule for the next 30 years.”
“Now there’s an even more brutal junta led by Min Aung Hlaing. The U.N.’s strategy did not work then, so why do they think it will work this time?”
The 79-page report, “How the UN is Failing Myanmar,” pulled no punches in claiming the lack of priority given to Myanmar by Guterres, compared with his response to the crisis in Ukraine, which he visited three times in less than a year following the Russian invasion.
“If he were more engaged, he could be instrumental in negotiating the cross-border access needed for U.N. entities to reach the almost 20 million people identified as needing humanitarian relief in Myanmar. But he has not engaged,” it said.
Instead, the authors of the report said that he had formally referred to the junta as “the de facto authorities,” a status the junta has craved but for the most part been denied.
“As this paper has demonstrated, the Secretary-General’s reference was wrong in law and fact and indicated a lack of understanding of the situation in Myanmar,” and conflicted with policy positions in the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, they said.
It’s an attitude that is worth reassessing, not least because of civilian casualties and more so if comments made by Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the NUG, regarding territorial control and defections from the senior ranks of the military prove correct.
In an interview by Bloomberg and published in Time magazine, he said the NUG’s armed wing, the People’s Defense Force, and the ethnic armies were now in control of about 60 percent of Myanmar and were poised to threaten the junta in key strongholds.
“It is very encouraging to see that more military personnel are trying to reach out to us via our informers at different government offices,” he said. “There are negotiations in progress for some brigadier generals to defect but they haven’t joined yet.”
A previous briefing paper by SAC-M, released just over a year ago, found the NUG and resistance groups had “effective control” over 52 percent of the country. An eight percentage point increase is modest but would cement NUG’s claims to have control over most of the country.