USDP Urges Govt to Rethink Naypyitaw Office for UN Envoy

By Lawi Weng & Htet Naing Zaw 22 June 2018

NAYPYITAW — The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has urged the government to reconsider its decision to let the UN’s new special envoy on Myanmar set up an office in the administrative capital, Naypyitaw, warning that it could leave the country vulnerable to international interference.

“We want our government to think about our sovereignty and our internal affairs. We do not want our sovereign nation to be divided, and our government needs to listen to the voices of our people,” USDP spokesman U Thein Tun Oo told reporters in Naypyitaw on Thursday.

If the office is unavoidable, he added, the government should at least be transparent about it with the public.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Switzerland’s ambassador to Germany, Christine Schraner Burgener, as special envoy to Myanmar in April.

Earlier this month, Myanmar signed a framework deal with the UN Development Program and the UN’s refugee agency aimed at creating the necessary conditions for the safe return of the 700,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims who fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh since August, when attacks by Muslim militants on police posts sparked a military crackdown.

The military-aligned USDP is staunchly opposed to international involvement in the Rohingya crisis and accuses the UN — which has called the military crackdown a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” — of bias.

“Who played a role in attracting international attention to the Rakhine issue?” U Thein Tun Oo asked. “When they open an office in Naypyitaw, they will work not only on the Rakhine issue. They will even work on Shan and Kachin issues in order to bring our country before the ICC [International Criminal Court],” he said.

Last month the government announced the formation of an independent commission to investigate alleged rights abuses in Rakhine since the militant attacks in August. But the military objected to plans to include a foreign expert on the three-member team, and its representatives spoke against the quota in Parliament.

U Thein Tun Oo accused the UN and other international actors of causing the Rohingya crisis and putting the country’s stability at risk.

“Was any country stable after allowing the UN to interfere in its internal affairs to solve a conflict? We ask this question. Some countries split apart and became unstable after allowing the UN to interfere in their internal affairs, and in the end, those countries have had to share sovereignty,” he said.

The spokesman did not say which countries he was referring to.