The U.N. General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution calling on Myanmar’s military to restore democratic rule, and urging member states to “prevent the flow of arms” to the country, where security forces have killed more than 800 people – mostly protesters – since a Feb. 1 coup.
Four of 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand – abstained from the vote, again showing divisions within the bloc on how to deal with the Burmese junta that overthrew an elected government on Feb. 1.
The resolution “calls upon the Myanmar armed forces to respect the will of the people as freely expressed by the results of the general election of 8 November 2020, to end the state of emergency, to respect all human rights of all the people of Myanmar and to allow the sustained democratic transition of Myanmar.”
It also called for the release of President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and “all those who have been arbitrarily detained, charged or arrested” – some 4,880 people, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, who speaks for the civilian shadow government, said the resolution “falls short of our expectations” because it “did not include the imposition of an arms embargo” on the country, where the military ousted an elected government on Feb. 1.
A total of 119 countries voted in favor of the resolution. Thirty-six U.N. member-states abstained, and 37 were not present for the vote. Belarus was the only country that voted no.
China abstained from the vote, saying it opposes country-specific resolutions, and Russia also abstained, saying the resolution would not contribute to resolving the crisis in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s Kyaw Moe Tun said he was disappointed that “it took three months to adopt this watered-down resolution.”
Still, Myanmar’s civilian representative “voted yes because it will to some extent put pressure on the military to stop inhumane acts in Myanmar.”
‘Risk of large-scale civil war’ in Myanmar
A vote on the resolution, which was introduced by Liechtenstein, was postponed last month, as the U.N body tried to garner more support for it, especially from ASEAN, which wanted the arms embargo clause dropped from the draft.
A revised version was adopted on Friday.
The resolution urges U.N. member-states “to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar” in accordance with a Security Council resolution from July 2020 calling for a global ceasefire and de-escalation of violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The adoption of the resolution is a significant step, because it “send[s] a message that there can be no business as usual with a military junta that murders its own people,” said Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, via Twitter.
Meanwhile, U.N. Special Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told the assembly that “the opportunity to reverse the military takeover [in Myanmar] is narrowing.”
She was speaking after the vote on the resolution, to brief the assembly about her weeks-long trip to Southeast Asia in the wake of the Myanmar coup. She was not allowed into Myanmar, but observed the situation mostly from neighboring Thailand.
She said “the risk of a large-scale civil war is real” and warned that half the country’s population could sink into poverty by 2022 if the violence continued.
4 ASEAN member-states abstain from vote
The resolution said ASEAN had a central role to play in engaging with Myanmar and facilitating a peaceful solution “in the interest of the people of Myanmar and their livelihoods.”
Still, ASEAN member-states Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand abstained from the vote, showing how divided the regional bloc is.
The U.N. body in it resolution also called on Myanmar to “swiftly implement” the five-point consensus ASEAN hammered out with the Burmese junta chief on April 24.
But ASEAN has made no progress on any of the five points, one of which was the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar and a visit by an ASEAN delegation to the crisis-ridden country, headed by that envoy.
Aung Thu Nyein, director of the Yangon-based Institute of Strategy and Policy Myanmar, said that ASEAN member states don’t have a unified position on Myanmar issues, “given the fact that most [of its member-] states are not even democratic states.”
Still, the regional bloc can play a part, Aung Thu Nyein told Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews.
“I think ASEAN still has a central role in handling the Myanmar crisis. Many countries support ASEAN’s five-point consensus,” Aung Thu Nyein told RFA.
“I think the ASEAN way is not adequate but as many countries are now supporting the five-point consensus … we should stick to that path.”
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.