Noeleen Heyzer, the United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, has said she is “very concerned” about the health of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been in detention since the military removed her from office in a coup in February 2021, and that she will not visit the country again unless she can see her.
Speaking at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore on Monday, Heyzer noted that Aung San Suu Kyi had been found guilty of electoral fraud last week and given an additional three years in prison with hard labour.
She had already been found guilty of a number of other offences in secretive military courts, with sentences amounting to a combined 17 years in jail.
“I am very concerned about her health and condemn her sentence for hard labour,” Heyzer said, noting that she had expressed her concerns about Aung San Suu Kyi to coup leader Min Aung Hlaing during their discussion in Naypyidaw in August. She had also asked to meet Aung San Suu Kyi at that time and called on the coup leaders to allow the 76-year-old to return home.
“I was told there would be a meeting eventually,” she said.
Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the military seized power 18 months ago, just as the country’s new parliament was due to convene for the first time since elections in November 2020.
The power grab led to nationwide protests and the military responded with force.
In the months since, the situation has become increasingly violent with some protesters taking up arms and the military bombing villages and setting fire to civilian homes in an attempt to wipe out resistance to its rule.
Some 2,263 people have been killed since the coup, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, which has been monitoring the situation. In July, the military regime hanged four of its critics in a move that shocked the world.
Heyzer held direct talks with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing when she was in Naypyidaw, her first visit since becoming envoy.
She said she had made six requests ahead of the visit: an end to executions, the release of all children in detention, the unimpeded and immediate delivery of humanitarian aid, an immediate end to violence including aerial bombings, the release of all political prisoners and the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Engaging with the SAC (State Administrative Council) has not been an easy process,” she said, referring to the military by the name it has given its administration.
She stressed that UN engagement with the generals did not “in any way” confer legitimacy on the regime.
She said the SAC had sent three diplomatic notes to the UN over her work, including in relation to her engagement with the National Unity Government (the administration established by MPs from the government that was deposed) and accusing her of using “biased data” when discussing the Rohingya who were forced out of the country in a military crackdown five years ago.
Heyzer said the Naypyidaw visit had produced “a few minor, very tiny outcomes that I’m praying can contribute in even tiny ways” including an assurance that no child under the age of 12 was being held in prison and that she would be allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi “eventually”.
“I’m pleased that I have gone in on my first visit, but if I ever do my next visit it will only be if I can see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” she said in answer to a question about whether she planned to visit Naypyidaw again.