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UN calls for ‘preventing flow of arms’ to Myanmar

NEW YORK, USA: The UN General Assembly has stopped short of calling for a global arms embargo against Myanmar, even as it took the rare step of urging member states to “prevent the flow of arms” into the violence-wracked country following a military in February.

The resolution condemning the coup also demands that the military “immediately stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators”, who continue to take to the streets every day, including on Saturday, which also marks the birthday of the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

It was approved on Friday by 119 countries, with 36 abstaining including China, Myanmar’s main ally. Only one country, Belarus, voted against it. It was sponsored by some 60 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 infringed upon by the military in Myanmar,” Turkey’s Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th UN General Assembly said in a statement.

At the meeting, UN special envoy on 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 narrowing,” Schraner Burgener said after the General Assembly adopted the non-binding resolution.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are currently fleeing from violence in the country following clashes between the military 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 Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

The resolution was not passed by consensus, as had been hoped, but rather through a vote, forcing all 193 UN countries to reveal their views.

In a quirk of history, Myanmar’s envoy to the world body, Kyaw Moe Tun, voted in favour of the text. He has passionately rejected the coup and brushed aside the military’s claims that he no longer represents Myanmar. The United Nations still considers him as the rightful envoy.

After the vote, the diplomat voiced regret that it had taken three months for the Assembly to adopt 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 halt the violence,” he said.

“The people inside and outside the country are determined to stop the illegal military rule and to restore democracy.”

Anthony Nelson, an analyst at the Albright Stonebridge Group business strategy firm, said that many countries who abstained from voting on the resolution want to preserve their ties with Myanmar’s military government.

“It certainly falls short of expectations of some of the protesters in Myanmar, who have been calling from Day One about the responsibility to protect,” Nelson said, adding that it is likely at a UN Security Council resolution for a full arms embargo will be vetoed.