In its first resolution on the Southeast Asian country since independence, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called on Myanmar’s ruling military junta to release all political prisoners, including deposed State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi and former President Win Myint.
UN Security Council Resolution 2669 on Myanmar “expressed deep concern at the ongoing state of emergency imposed by the military” and stressed the need to address several long-standing issues. It also called for more humanitarian assistance to victims of violence, with a focus on women, children and displaced people, including the Rohingya – a persecuted, mostly Muslim minority.
The attack comes almost two years after the military staged a violent coup, overthrew the democratically elected government and arrested civilian leaders, including Suu Kyi.
Freedoms and rights in Myanmar under the military junta have deteriorated significantly. State executions have returned, thousands of people have been arrested for protesting against military rule and the number of documented violent attacks by the army on civilian areas, including schools, has risen sharply, according to non-governmental organizations. The junta claims it is fighting what it calls “terrorists” and promises a return to peace.
Wednesday’s resolution was proposed by Britain and passed with 12 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions from China, India and Russia.
Suu Kyi is currently being held in solitary confinement in a prison in the capital, Naypyidaw, on a range of charges. To date, the 77-year-old former Nobel Peace Prize winner has been sentenced to 26 years in prison, including three years of hard labour. The condemnations, which critics and international observers say are politically motivated, relate primarily to the November 2020 general election, which won its National League for Democracy in a landslide victory over a military-based party.
In a statement Wednesday, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States applauded the Security Council for adopting the resolution. “With this resolution, the international community calls on the Burmese military regime to end its horrific violence, immediately release those arbitrarily detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access and protect minority groups,” she said, referring to Myanmar by its older name.
But she said it was “just a step towards ending the bloodshed. Much more needs to be done,” he added, adding that the United Nations Security Council must “promote accountability for the atrocities and abuses committed by the Burmese military regime.”
“Since the junta violently seized power in February 2021, it has waged a brutal campaign against the people of Myanmar – burning villages, conducting indiscriminate airstrikes, torture and mass killings,” said British Ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward. in a statement.
“This resolution sends a clear message: The Security Council is deeply concerned about what is happening in Myanmar at the hands of the military and the so-called ‘state of emergency’ imposed to quell people’s demands for peace and democracy,” she added.
The news received a mixed reaction from human rights groups, who urged more action.
Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan responded to the United Nations Security Council’s efforts, calling it a “missed opportunity for more decisive action,” but reiterated the urgent need to develop a better plan of action.
“[W]We cannot deny that Council members missed an opportunity for more decisive action. Most important was their failure to establish a mechanism for regular reporting on the situation in Myanmar. This is a crisis that is constantly evolving and deepening. It is therefore imperative that Council members consider this resolution as a first step in developing a comprehensive and ongoing plan of action.”
Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the resolution was “a significant step on behalf of the people of Myanmar and opens the door to holding Myanmar’s brutal generals to account.”
Pearson added that “the resolution should revisit the junta’s daily atrocities and recognize the courageous efforts of the people of Myanmar for democracy and freedom.”