In an informal hearing in New York last night, the UN Special Envoy for Burma, Noeleen Heyzer, told the General Assembly (UNGA) that the coup had “opened new frontlines that had long been at peace”, and that Burma’s challenges had “both deepened and expanded dramatically”.
The diplomat — who was criticised by Burmese citizens this weekend over comments made at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore — told the UNGA that half of Burma’s population is now living below the poverty line, and that 14.4 million people (a quarter of the population) are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
In Burma, she said, state, social, and economic institutions have collapsed, with the spread of armed conflict leading to declining crop yields, the disruption of healthcare and education services, increased crime, and a weakening of the country’s banking sector.
The Special Envoy stated that poverty has doubled in Burma over the past five years.
“Through direct contact with the people of Burma, I learned about the human tragedy behind these figures… A generation that has benefitted from the democratic transition is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and, tragically, many feel they have no choice left but to take up arms,” Heyzer added.
The diplomat has yet to visit Naypyidaw and remains effectively barred by the junta from entering the country.