UNITED NATIONS (PA) – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced the appointment of former UN Under-Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore as the new UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, torn apart by conflict.
She will succeed Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland, whose three and a half years in this post saw movements towards democracy collapse during a military takeover of the Southeast Asian nation last February which led to nationwide protests. His term ends Sunday.
Heyzer served from 1994-2007 as Executive Director of UNIFEM, one of the forerunners of the umbrella United Nations organization for women known as UN Women. She was the first woman to serve as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2007-2014, a position that earned her the rank of Assistant Secretary-General.
She is currently a member of Guterres’ High Level Advisory Board on Mediation, a Board Member of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and a Distinguished Fellow of Singapore Management University and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Singapore and Myanmar are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has 10 members, and Schraner Burgener told The Associated Press on Monday: “I think the Secretary General has certainly taken the right decision to have someone who knows the area, who knows how to deal diplomatically.
The outgoing UN envoy said her successor did not need advice, but if she continued in this post, “then I would clearly try to continue helping the people.”
When the Burmese military seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on February 1, it claimed with little evidence that the general election his party won last November in a landslide was marred by a widespread electoral fraud. The takeover sparked street protests that security forces attempted to crush and turned into violence and clashes across the country with armed ethnic groups and the so-called People’s Defense Forces. The pushback has left more than 1,100 dead, said Schraner Burgener.
ASEAN called for an end to the violence, dialogue and a visit by an envoy, but junta leaders refused to allow a meeting with Suu Kyi, so the visit was canceled. In their harshest rebuke to date against the military takeover, ASEAN foreign ministers failed to invite Myanmar’s military leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to the summit of the October 26 to 28 when the crisis in the country is the order of the day.
The UN said that in 2008-2009, Heyzer worked closely with ASEAN, the government of Myanmar and the United Nations in recovery efforts after Cyclone Nargis and conducted a dialogue with Myanmar leaders. on development and poverty reduction.