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UN chief taps Swiss ambassador to Germany as Burma envoy: sources

Swiss Ambassador Christine Schraner Burgener, seen in this 2008 file photo, has been tipped to serve as the United Nations chief’s special envoy on Burma. (Photo: Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has tapped Switzerland’s ambassador to Germany, Christine Schraner Burgener, to be his special envoy on Burma, UN sources said on Wednesday.

Burma has faced international criticism over a military crackdown that has sent nearly 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh. The United Nations, United States, Britain and others have described the operation as ethnic cleansing, which Burma has denied.

In December the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution asking Guterres to appoint a UN special envoy on Burma, putting a special focus of the world body on trying to help resolve the crisis.

Burma’s UN Ambassador Hau Do Suan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday on Guterres’ plan to appoint Schraner Burgener, who was previously Switzerland’s ambassador to Thailand.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that he expected an announcement of an appointment “in the coming days.”

UN Security Council envoys are due to travel to Bangladesh and Burma shortly to assess the situation.

Hau Do Suan told Reuters earlier this month that his country welcomed “any constructive engagement and counsel of any kind from the international community to advance human rights.”

However, he said Burma does not believe the appointment of a special envoy “will solve the multi-faceted and complex situation of Myanmar unless his or her mandate is carried out based on the principle of respect for the sovereignty and dignity of the country concerned, objectivity and impartiality.”

He noted that the position would need the full cooperation of the government and people of Burma to work.