HOPES of a return to democracy in juntaruled Myanmar are being crushed by “systematic repression”, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said last Thursday (7) at a summit in Indonesia with the United States, China and regional leaders.
Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since a 2021 military coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, unleashing a bloody crackdown on dissent.
“Brutal violence, worsening poverty, and systematic repression are crushing hopes for a return to democracy,” Guterres said. He was speaking before a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member. “The situation is untenable.”
The junta was not in attendance after being barred from attending ASEAN summits until it implements a fivepoint peace plan agreed two years ago.
Guterres noted that the crisis has “further deteriorated” in the past year. In an earlier speech, he had said that the world was witnessing an “enormous tragedy”.
Before his meeting with ASEAN leaders, he repeated a call for Myanmar’s military authorities to free detained leaders and political prisoners and return to democratic rule.
Deposed leader Suu Kyi is among those still in detention.
Guterres also said the conditions for the safe return of Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2017, many of them to neighbouring Bangladesh, during a brutal military crackdown “are not yet in sight”.
Myanmar is facing genocide accusations at the United Nations’ top court following the mass exodus.
Leaders at the ASEAN summit last Tuesday (5) called on Myanmar’s military rulers to “de-escalate violence and stop targeted attacks on civilians”, a statement that the junta condemned as “one-sided”.
Myanmar has also been replaced as ASEAN’s rotating chair in 2026 by the Philippines.
An Indonesian official, who declined to be identified, said “they are still isolated, ASEAN does not trust them”.
In a wide-ranging speech earlier at the summit, Guterres called on world leaders to “turn up the heat” to solve the global climate crisis.