UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Calls for Nationwide New Year’s Ceasefire

By The Irrawaddy 28 December 2021

The new UN special envoy on Myanmar called for a nationwide ceasefire as military tensions remained high in parts of Karen State and Bago Region amid ongoing fighting and the arrival on Tuesday of junta reinforcements. The affected areas—Karen’s Myawaddy and Papun districts, and Bago’s Nyaung Lay Pin district—are controlled by the country’s oldest revolutionary force, the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA).

Fighting has been going on in Karen State, particularly in Myawaddy’s Lay Kay Kaw new town and surrounding areas, for two weeks. After regime troops sustained heavy casualties in KNLA guerrilla attacks, junta aircraft bombed the areas from Thursday to Monday.

Fighting was also reported in the KNU/KNLA’s Brigade 3 area in Nyaung Lay Pin, after more junta troops were deployed on the road linking areas controlled by the KNLA’s brigades 3 and 5, according to the KNU.

Additionally, daily fighting has been reported in areas controlled by KNLA brigades 1, 2 and 5 in Mon State’s Thaton and Bago Region’s Kyauk Gyi and Papun districts.

On Monday, the UN’s special envoy on Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, called for “a New Year’s ceasefire throughout Myanmar.”

She said she was “deeply concerned by the continued escalation of violence in Kayin [Karen] State and other parts of Myanmar,” which has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians, including women and children.

Heyzer echoed the UN Security Council’s call for all parties to exercise utmost restraint and seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people and their livelihood.

Meanwhile, a KNU leader said the organization had joined hands with the People’s Defense Force, a network of civilian resistance groups that emerged from the anti-coup movement, to take defensive actions.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, a member of the KNU’s Standing Central Committee and the organization’s head of foreign affairs, said the military’s aerial and artillery attacks are increasingly affecting civilians.

On Dec. 20, the KNU urged the UN to call an emergency meeting to establish a no-fly zone over Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding areas, which are along the Thailand-Myanmar border, as its leaders expected aerial attacks.

Three days later, the KNU’s fears were realized when the junta bombed the areas.

The KNU leader added that the junta bombardment and heavy artillery attack on Lay Kay Kaw came on Christmas, an auspicious occasion for the local Christian community, many of whom are among those who have been displaced.

The bombing followed a Christmas Eve massacre in Kayah State, he added, referring to the junta’s killing and burning of 35 civilians, including women and children, in Hpruso Township last Friday.

“We urge the international community not to stay idle, but to take immediate action against the junta,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 civilians have sought protection and assistance in Thailand, while many more are stranded on the Myanmar side of the Moei River, which forms the border, following the junta’s offensives in Lay Kay Kaw.

According to one observer of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Myanmar military considers anyone who peacefully opposes it to be its enemy, thus ensuring that the anti-junta movement continually gains strength.

“The spirit of the people opposing the regime is stronger than it’s ever been,” said the observer, adding that the people are committed to resisting the junta wherever they are.

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