Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
July 29, 2021
Thank you, Barbara. And thanks to the United Kingdom for calling for today’s important discussion. And thank you to both briefers for your important perspectives.
Humanitarian aid workers inside Burma are sounding the alarm. As a direct result of the military’s brutality and administrative failures since its coup six months ago, Burma is reeling from a surge in COVID-19 cases. This burgeoning health catastrophe comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of people remain internally displaced by the recent violence, with the World Food Program projecting between 1.5 and 2.8 million additional people in the country could now be at risk of food insecurity. In its updated Humanitarian Response Plan for Burma, the UN warned that the country “may be on the cusp of a much broader humanitarian crisis.” The warning signs are loud and clear. The international community, and this Council, must take them seriously before it’s too late.
We must call for unhindered access for aid organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance in an impartial and neutral manner, consistent with humanitarian principles. We must ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and beneficiaries. We must press the authorities to provide equitable access to personal protective equipment, vaccines, and resources to treat those infected with COVID-19. And we must urge the military to allow civil society to provide the people of Burma with medical resources to treat and detect COVID-19. The military must also protect the health and welfare of all detainees, who are especially vulnerable, and we insist on the release of all those unjustly detained.
The military’s refusal to take these simple, humane actions lays bare its intent to act only in its narrow self-interest. A professional military defends its country – but Burma’s military has only continued a crackdown to deepen its grip on power at a time when the people of Burma face escalating threats from disease and hunger. The military has not honored its commitments under the ASEAN five-point consensus. In fact, it has explicitly walked back from them, and has continued to kill and detain doctors, peaceful protestors, National League for Democracy members, and others.
So, we encourage all countries, particularly Burma’s neighbors, to provide protection and refuge for the people of Burma who are crossing borders to flee persecution and ongoing fighting and violence. We will continue to encourage neighboring countries to also allow humanitarian organizations access and to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Amid the current political and humanitarian crisis, we cannot forget to address the challenges facing Rohingya, who remain particularly vulnerable. Many of those who led the coup in Burma are also responsible for the atrocities against Rohingya. Atrocities we have not, and cannot, forget.
The United States remains committed to helping vulnerable persons from Burma seeking protection and assistance, including Rohingya, and is the leading contributor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Rakhine State and Rohingya refugee crisis. But the long-term crisis in Rakhine cannot be addressed if the ongoing violence does not cease.
So, to that end, we once again urge this Council to press the military to reverse course. Now is the time for increased pressure to cease the violence and restore Burma’s path to democracy. We all support a peaceful resolution to this crisis. But the military has explicitly said it does not plan to honor the commitments it made in Jakarta. So, what are we waiting for? The longer we delay, the more people die. This Council is failing in our collective responsibility to safeguard international peace and security. And it is failing the people of Burma. We must do more, and we must do more now.
Thank you, Barbara.