The UN General Assembly has fallen short of calling for a global arms embargo against Myanmar’s military, even as it took the rare step of urging member states to “prevent the flow of weapons” into the violence-ravaged country after the coup of February 1.
The resolution condemning the coup also demands that the military “immediately stop all violence against peaceful protesters.”
It was approved on Friday by 119 countries, 36 of which abstained, including China, Myanmar’s main ally. Only one country, Belarus, voted against. It was sponsored by 50 countries.
“We must advocate for the protection of all fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful assembly, which have been repeatedly violated by the military in Myanmar,” said Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Assembly. UN General of Turkey, in a statement.
At the meeting, UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, also warned the 193-member body that “the risk of a large-scale civil war is real” in the country.
“Time is of the essence. The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is shrinking,” Schraner Burgener said after the General Assembly adopted the non-binding resolution.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are currently fleeing violence in the country following clashes between the army and ethnic groups.
The vote came on the same day that the Security Council was holding informal talks on the situation in the Southeast Asian nation, where the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
The resolution was not passed by consensus, as expected, but rather through a vote, forcing all 193 UN countries to reveal their views.
On a whim of history, Myanmar’s envoy to the world body, Kyaw Moe Tun, voted in favor of the text. He has passionately rejected the coup and has set aside claims by the military that he no longer represents Myanmar. The United Nations still considers him the legitimate envoy.
After the vote, the diplomat regretted that the Assembly took three months to pass the resolution and that it was not more explicit about an arms embargo.
“The military is still operating in its own twisted reality,” while ignoring calls to stop the violence, “he said.
“People inside and outside the country are determined to stop the illegal military regime and restore democracy.”
Among the countries that abstained were Russia, Mali, where a second military coup recently took place in less than a year, Iran, Egypt, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
The UN General Assembly rarely adopts resolutions condemning military coups or calling for limits on the weapons supplied to the target country.
“It is the most comprehensive and universal condemnation of the situation in Myanmar to date,” said Olof Skoog, European Union ambassador to the UN.
“The EU is proud of the resolution just passed by the UN General Assembly. Send a strong and powerful message. It delegitimizes the military junta, condemns its abuses and violence against its own people and shows its isolation in the eyes of the world, ”he said.
The resolution also calls for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and the release of all detained civilian leaders.
“It is absolutely necessary to create the conditions for democracy to be restored,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said before the vote on the resolution, waiting for a “very clear message” from the General Assembly.
‘Do the obvious’
It calls for the implementation of a five-point plan drawn up by ASEAN in April that includes the appointment of an envoy from the bloc.
The text also asks the military to allow the UN representative, Burgener, to visit the country and the safe passage of humanitarian aid.
Burgener briefed the Security Council during its closed-door meeting on Myanmar on Friday. A joint statement was not adopted at that meeting due to persistent divisions among its members, diplomats told AFP.
We must speak out for those who have been silenced. We must advocate for the protection of all fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful assembly, which have been repeatedly violated by the military in #Myanmar. pic.twitter.com/vbpSbjNo9A
– President of the UN GA (@UN_PGA) June 18, 2021
The Assembly resolution “calls on UN member states to do the obvious: stop providing weapons to Myanmar,” Human Rights Watch said.
“Months of atrocities and gross human rights abuses by the junta’s security forces have shown time and again why no government should send a single bullet to them. The UN Security Council should now step forward and pass its own resolution imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar, ”said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at HRW.
The resolution is an opportunity “to show that the world stands with the people of Myanmar, and not with the military” who “committed horrible acts of violence against ordinary civilians,” said British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward.
More than 860 civilians have died in Myanmar since the coup, according to the UN and the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).
On Friday, two people were killed when a military truck exploded in one of the two explosions near an office of an army-backed political party in the country’s largest city, Yangon. Local media reported, and a senior rescue official said six other people were injured.
There were also reports of a huge fire in Monywa, the largest city in the Sagaing region, although the cause of the incident was not immediately determined.
# June18Coup Monywa, Sagaing
– Shafiur Rahman (@shafiur) June 18, 2021