UN chief urges Myanmar to respect people's will

Speaking at Human Rights Council meeting, Antonio Guterres also talks about ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar

UN chief urges Myanmar to respect people's will

The UN chief on Monday called on Myanmar's military junta to respect the people's will expressed in recent elections.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was speaking at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council.

Noting the undermining of democracy with "brutal force" in Myanmar, Guterres said: "[There are] serious violations against minorities with no accountability, including what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population."

The Human Rights Council session began on Monday, with a busy agenda with several national leaders and dignitaries expected to speak, including Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The session includes discussion on countries' human rights records, with the US participating as an observer for the first time since former President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the body in 2018.

"Today, I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately. Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people expressed in recent elections," Guterres said.

The UN chief said he welcomed the Human Rights Council's resolution of Feb. 12, expressing its support to the people of Myanmar "in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law."

He said that stoking the fires of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, violence against some minority Christian communities, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny "is nothing new."

Today, he said, extremist movements represent the number one internal security threat in several countries. 

"Individuals and groups are engaged in a feeding frenzy of hate — fundraising, recruiting and communicating online both at home and overseas, traveling internationally to train together and network their hateful ideologies," said Guterres.

"Far too often, these hate groups are cheered on by people in positions of responsibility in ways that were considered unimaginable not long ago," he added.

The UN secretary general said the COVID-19 infodemic has “raised alarms more generally about the growing reach of digital platforms and the use and abuse of data.”

"We don't know how this information has been collected, by whom, or for what purposes. Governments can exploit that data to control the behavior of their own citizens, violating the human rights of individuals or groups," Guterres said. 

"All of this is not science fiction or a forecast of a 22nd-century dystopia. It is here and now. And it requires a serious discussion," he added.