The UN called on member states to “prevent the influx of arms into Myanmar” and release Aung San Suu Kyi and other jailed leaders, issuing a symbolic but harsh global rebuke to the military junta of Min Aung Hlaing.
The UN General Assembly on Friday adopted the resolution by majority vote with 119 countries in favor. Only one country, Belarus, voted against the resolution, with China, Russia and 34 other countries abstaining. China has argued that external pressure could make the situation worse, but has not ruled out an arms embargo in the future.
The text is not binding and its language has been softened during negotiations with some of Myanmar’s regional neighbors. But diplomats and human rights groups said the effort nonetheless marked an attempt by the international community to isolate the junta at a time when some countries continued to have ties with the generals.
“This is a setback for the junta,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group, adding that it was “highly unusual” for the general assembly – the governing body of the UN composed of 193 member states – weighs on a coup. “Generals and their allies will have a harder time telling the world that their takeover is now just a reality everyone should accept.”
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said the UN Security Council should now “step up” and impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar given the “very strong” endorsement of Friday at the general assembly.
The 15-member Security Council, whose decisions are binding on member states, discussed Myanmar on Friday but has yet to consider an arms embargo.
“Today’s vote seems to indicate that China has yet to join the junta,” Charbonneau said, adding that he hoped Beijing would not block a UNSC arms embargo.
The crisis in Myanmar was caused by the military overthrow of the government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1 after challenging a crushing victory by its National League for Democracy in the November elections.
At least 865 people have been killed and more than 6,000 arrested since the coup, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights group.
The Burmese military cracked down on peaceful mass protests in the weeks following the coup. More recently, the violence has widened to include clashes between anti-regime troops and urban guerrillas or armed organizations in some of the country’s ethnic minority states.
the chief of Myanmar was judged this week in Naypyidaw, where she faces multiple criminal charges that her lawyers and human rights groups say were fabricated to prevent her from running for office again.
Human rights groups and civil society activists in Myanmar have urged the UN to take action and have described an arms embargo as one of the measures that the global community could take and which would do the most to stop the bloodshed in the country.
However, diplomats have so far considered that a Security Council resolution is unlikely to pass because the permanent members China and Russia, the two biggest arms suppliers to the Burmese army, have a veto right.
The vote comes at a time when some of Myanmar’s neighbors are opening contacts with junta officials, angering anti-coup activists who want the world to isolate the junta and deprive it of income.
Asean, the 10-member Southeast Asian group to which Myanmar belongs, this week hosted an online meeting of defense ministers attended by a regime official, attended by Secretary Lloyd Austin. American Defense, also participated. Asean members were divided in Friday’s UN vote, with Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand all abstaining and the majority, including Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, supporting .
The UN, China, and ASEAN have all been the targets of anti-coup protesters, who burnt asean flag at a protest in Yangon this week. The bloc in April agreed to a five point consensus on the de-escalation of violence in Myanmar, but angered the anti-coup camp by inviting Min Aung Hlaing to the agreed summit.