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UN council adopts resolution urging end to Myanmar violence

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India, China and Russia abstain

United Nations: The U.N. Security Council approved its first-ever resolution on Myanmar on Wednesday, demanding an immediate end to violence in the Southeast Asian nation and urging its military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners including former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The resolution reiterated the call by the 15-member council for the country to uphold democratic institutions and respect human rights. The council vote was 12-0 with three abstentions, China, Russia and India.

The resolution is the first adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body since the country formerly known as Burma joined the United Nations in 1948, according to the United Kingdom which drafted it.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said before Wednesday’s vote that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remains “extremely concerned” about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and human rights in Myanmar.

“Any opportunity for the Security Council to speak with one strong, united voice on any issue and especially on Myanmar would be much welcomed,” Dujarric said.

For five decades Myanmar had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Suu Kyi’s rise to leadership in 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country.

That ended with the military’s Feb. 1, 2021, coup following the November 2020 elections in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won overwhelmingly and the military contested the outcome as fraudulent.

The takeover was met with massive public opposition, which has since turned into armed resistance that some U.N. experts have characterized as civil war.

Last month, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, said over 16,000 people had been detained on political charges in Myanmar since the army takeover. Of those arrested, more than 13,000 were still in detention. The association said at least 2,465 civilians had been killed since the 2021 takeover, although the number is thought to be far higher.

Much of the international community, including Myanmar’s fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have expressed frustration at the hard line the generals have taken in resisting reform. Myanmar’s rulers agreed to a five-point ASEAN plan in April 2021 to restore peace and stability to the country, but the military has made little effort to implement the plan.

The plan calls for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation of the dialogue process by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels and a visit to Myanmar by the association’s special envoy to meet all concerned parties. Current U.N. special envoy Noeleen Heyzer and ASEAN special envoy Prak Sokhonn, a Cambodian minister, have both visited Myanmar but neither was allowed to meet Suu Kyi.

The draft resolution “acknowledges ASEAN’s central role in helping to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Myanmar” and encourages the international community to support ASEAN’s efforts including in implementing the five-point consensus.

Noting the Myanmar military’s commitment to ASEAN leaders in April 2021 to support the five-point consensus, the draft calls for “concrete and immediate actions” to “effectively and fully” implement the plan.

It urges all parties in Myanmar to work with the U.N. and ASEAN envoys to start a dialogue aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis in the country.

The resolution also expresses “deep concern” at the ongoing state of emergency imposed by the military, the arrest of Suu Kyi and former president Win Myint who should be released immediately and at “the increasingly large numbers of internally displaced persons and dramatic increase in humanitarian need.” It reiterates the council’s condemnation of the execution of activists in July.

The resolution underlines the need “for a peaceful, genuine and inclusive process to de-escalate violence and reach a sustainable political resolution.”

It also underscores the need to address the crisis in Rakhine state and to create conditions for the return of ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, most chased out by the Buddhist-majority country’s military crackdown in August 2018 . Some 700,000 people still live as refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh while others remain displaced in Myanmar.

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