UN assembly condemns Myanmar coup, calls for arms embargo

  • An internally displaced woman sits inside her makeshift tent at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021.

    An internally displaced woman sits inside her makeshift tent at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2018, file photo, Myanmar's deposed Leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to attend the Myanmar Entrepreneurship Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi entered its second day Tuesday, June 15, 2021, with the prosecution presenting arguments that she incited public disorder and flouted coronavirus restrictions, part of a package of charges the ruling junta is seen as using to discredit her and consolidate its control.

    FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2018, file photo, Myanmar's deposed Leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to attend the Myanmar Entrepreneurship Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi entered its second day Tuesday, June 15, 2021, with the prosecution presenting arguments that she incited public disorder and flouted coronavirus restrictions, part of a package of charges the ruling junta is seen as using to discredit her and consolidate its control. Associated Press

  • An internally displaced woman carries a child outside makeshift tents at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021.

    An internally displaced woman carries a child outside makeshift tents at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021. Associated Press

  • A woman teaches internally displaced children at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021.

    A woman teaches internally displaced children at Pu Phar Village, Demawso Township, Kayah State on Thursday June 17, 2021. A report on the situation in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar issued this week by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says around 108,800 people from Kayah State were internally displaced following an escalation of hostilities between the government military and the local Karenni People's Defense Force militia since the coup Feb. 1, 2021. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this May 23, 2021, file photo, military troops and police go on patrol at Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. At least one-quarter of the people in Myanmar's smallest state have been forced to flee their homes because of combat with the military junta that seized power in February, raising fears of a possible humanitarian tragedy including thousands of civilian deaths, a U.N. expert said Wednesday, June 9.

    FILE - In this May 23, 2021, file photo, military troops and police go on patrol at Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. At least one-quarter of the people in Myanmar's smallest state have been forced to flee their homes because of combat with the military junta that seized power in February, raising fears of a possible humanitarian tragedy including thousands of civilian deaths, a U.N. expert said Wednesday, June 9. Associated Press

  • Anti-coup protesters display the three-finger sign of resistance during a flash mob on Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Yangon, Myanmar. Resistance to military rule remains widespread four months after civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was removed from power on Feb. 1, 2021.

    Anti-coup protesters display the three-finger sign of resistance during a flash mob on Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Yangon, Myanmar. Resistance to military rule remains widespread four months after civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was removed from power on Feb. 1, 2021. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/18/2021 5:04 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- In a rare move, the U.N. General Assembly on Friday condemned Myanmar's military coup and called for an arm embargo against the country in a resolution that demonstrated widespread global opposition to the junta and demanded the restoration of the country's democratic transition.

Supporters had hoped the 193-member U.N. General Assembly would approve the resolution unanimously by consensus, but Belarus called for a vote. The measure was approved with 119 countries voting 'yes,' Belarus voting 'no' and 36 countries abstaining including Myanmar's neighbors China and India, along with Russia.

 

The resolution was the result of lengthy negotiations by a so-called Core Group including the European Union and many Western nations and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as ASEAN, which includes Myanmar.

A U.N. diplomat said there was an agreement with ASEAN to seek consensus. But in the vote, its members were divided. Myanmar, whose U.N. ambassador supports the ousted democratic government, voted 'yes' along with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines while Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei abstained.

Even though the resolution didn't get the overwhelming support its backers hoped for, the action by the General Assembly, while not legally binding, reflects international condemnation of the Feb. 1 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's party from power and put her under arrest along with many government leaders and politicians, as well as strong opposition to the military crackdown on protesters demanding an end to the army's takeover.

The resolution's approval follows calls for more aggressive U.N. action by many countries and Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who has been charged with treason by the military junta.

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The more powerful U.N. Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding, has adopted several statements on Myanmar, including condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters, calling on the military to restore the democratic transition and 'exercise utmost restraint' and 'on all sides to refrain from violence.' But it has never been able to condemn the coup or authorize an arms embargo or other sanctions because of an almost-certain veto by China, and possibly Russia.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Aung San Suu Kyi's rise to leadership in 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country. The coup took place following November elections, which Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly and the military contends were marred by fraud.

The resolution calls on Myanmar's military junta to restore the country's democratic transition, condemns its 'excessive and lethal violence' since the coup, and calls on all countries 'to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.'

The resolution also calls on the armed forces to immediately and unconditionally release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Suu Kyi and other government officials and politicians detained after the coup, 'and all those who have been arbitrarily detained, charged or arrested.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

EU Ambassador Olof Skoog said the resolution 'sends a strong and powerful message,' calling it 'the broadest and most universal condemnation of the situation in Myanmar to date.'

'It delegitimizes the military junta, condemns its abuse and violence against its own people and demonstrates its isolation in the eyes of the world,' he said. 'The U.N. community of nations has expressed resounding support to the people of Myanmar -- that their human rights and freedoms must be protected, and that their democratically elected leaders must be released from detention.'

Richard Gowan, U.N. director of the International Crisis Group, said he is 'only aware of three previous General Assembly resolutions condemning coups in this way since the end of the Cold War' -- Haiti in 1991, Burundi in 1993 and Honduras in 2009.

The assembly has called for arms embargoes and sanctions, including on Israel and South Africa during the Cold War, Gowan said, but 'this is a rare call to stop arms flows, and Western diplomats deserve credit for getting a fairly clear and firm call to halt arms supplies to Myanmar, especially as ASEAN members had doubts about such language.'

Assessing the impact of the resolution, Gowan told The Associated Press, 'The junta will shrug this resolution off, but it will make it harder for them to try to normalize their relations with the wider world, and present the coup as a fait accompli.'

'The General Assembly has effectively warned the generals that if they keep hold of power, they are resigning themselves to pariah status indefinitely ... (and) has sent a clear message that U.N. members are not willing to sweep the coup under the rug,' Gowan said.

The resolution calls on Myanmar to swiftly implement a five-point action plan adopted at an ASEAN summit on April 24. It plan calls for stopping violence, establishing a constructive dialogue of the parties, appointment of an ASEAN special envoy as mediator, ensuring delivery of humanitarian aid and the mediator's visit to Myanmar.

The resolution also addresses another major issue facing Myanmar's military - its relations with ethnic minorities, especially Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state. Over 700,000 Rohingya fled a military crackdown in in 2017 and are now in camps in Bangladesh.

The General Assembly expressed concern over the human rights of the Rohingya and other minorities, singling out the denial of citizenship to almost all Rohingyas 'and reiterating the responsibility of the Myanmar armed forces to respect the human rights of all persons in Myanmar.'

It recalled the mandate of the U.N.'s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which is collecting evidence of the most serious international crimes. In a report in 2019, it said Myanmar's government should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

The resolution called on Myanmar's armed forces to immediately facilitate a visit by the U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener. She met Security Council members behind closed doors Friday and addressed the General Assembly immediately after the Myanmar resolution was adopted.

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