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Myanmar’s UN envoy accuses military junta of township massacre

Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, who has refused to leave his post despite being fired by the junta after the February coup, has alerted the world body to a “reported massacre” by the military.

Kyaw Moe Tun sent a letter to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Tuesday saying 40 bodies had been found in July in the Sagaing area of north-western Myanmar.

The junta has denied the massacre in the township of Kani, while news agencies have not been able to independently verify the reports due to mobile networks being cut in the remote region.

The representative wrote that soldiers tortured and killed 16 men in a village in the township around 9-10 July, after which 10,000 residents fled the area.

He said a further 13 bodies were discovered in the days after clashes between local fighters and security forces on 26 July.

Kyaw Moe Tun added that another 11 men, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed and set on fire in a separate village on 28 July.

In the letter, the ambassador repeated his call for an arms embargo on the ruling junta and “urgent humanitarian intervention” from the international community.

“We cannot let the military keep on doing this kind of atrocity in Myanmar,” Kyaw Moe Tun said.

“It is time for the UN, especially the UN security council, to take action.”

It came as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Wednesday appointed an envoy to Myanmar after a months-long delay in diplomatic efforts to resolve the coup crisis.

Asean’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement, delayed by internal wrangling, that they welcomed the appointment of Brunei second foreign minister, Erywan Yusof, as the bloc’s special envoy. Asean, which operates on a premise of consensus and non-interference, has been under global pressure to help resolve the crisis.

The appointment of an envoy is expected to clear the way for Aseasn to send emergency aid to help authorities cope with a severe Covid-19 outbreak.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army ousted the civilian leadership on 1 February, launching a crackdown on dissent that has killed hundreds of people.

Kyaw Moe Tun has passionately rejected the coup and brushed aside the junta’s claims that he no longer represents Myanmar. The United Nations still considers him as the rightful envoy.

The representative was sacked by the junta in February a day after he gave a three-finger salute at the UN general assembly following an impassioned speech calling for the return to civilian rule.

The “Hunger Games” gesture was widely used by pro-democracy demonstrators.

Kyaw Moe Tun, who has repeatedly called for international intervention to help end unrest in Myanmar, said on Wednesday that US authorities had boosted his security after an apparent threat was made against him.

“There was a reported threat against me,” he said. “The police and the security authorities here in New York are working on it,” he added, without giving details about the nature of the threat.

Myanmar’s junta chief said on Sunday elections would be held and a state of emergency lifted by August 2023, extending the military’s initial one-year timeline announced days after the coup.

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