The UN Security Council has failed to agree on a joint statement condemning Monday’s coup in Myanmar, after a closed-door meeting in response to the power grab and detention of the civilian government including the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but diplomats said discussions would continue.
The 15-member council was considering a UK-drafted statement that the United Nations’ envoy on Myanmar said should “collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy” in the country.
Christine Schraner Burgener briefed the council after the Myanmar military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other top politicians in a series of early morning raids on Monday, and handed power to armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing. It promised to hold new elections and imposed a state of emergency for one year.
“I strongly condemn the recent steps taken by the military and urge all of you to collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy in Myanmar,” Schraner Burgener told the council, according to her prepared remarks.
“Let us be clear, the recent outcome of the election was a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD),” she said. “The military’s proposal to hold elections again should be discouraged.”
The Security Council is negotiating a possible statement, drafted by Britain, that would condemn the coup, call for the military to respect the rule of law and human rights and immediately release those unlawfully detained, diplomats said. Such statements have to be agreed by consensus.
“China and Russia have asked for more time,” one diplomat told the AFP news agency following the behind-closed-doors video conference meeting that lasted just over two hours.
“A statement is still under discussion,” confirmed another diplomat, also on condition of anonymity.
The text, drafted by Britain, would also demand that the one-year state of emergency be repealed and “for all sides to adhere to democratic norms.” There was no mention of sanctions, according to AFP.
Human rights groups condemned the failure of the council to take swift action.
“No one should be surprised that the world’s body for maintaining international peace and security failed to issue a statement condemning a brazen military coup,” Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center said in a statement urging world leaders to take action including selected sanctions, arms embargoes and economic divestment to “disempower” the military.
“The time has passed for failed strategies promoting ‘stability’ and quiet diplomacy over accountability and justice,” she said. “The military has destabilized the country irreparably. It’s now on the international community to stem the tide of military violence and impunity before it’s too late.”
For the statement to be adopted, it requires the support of China, Myanmar’s main supporter at the UN and a permanent member of the Security Council with the power of veto. China has not condemned the coup, while state media characterised Monday’s events as a “cabinet reshuffle”.
China, with Russia’s backing, shielded Myanmar from any significant council action after a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State led to more than 740,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh, where they remain. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Western states accused the Myanmar military of ethnic cleansing, which it denied.
The country is currently being investigated for genocide at the International Court of Justice over its treatment of the Rohingya in a case brought by The Gambia.
A diplomat with China’s UN mission said after a Council meeting on Tuesday that they were “shocked” that reporters had already seen the draft statement, adding that it would “make the process of seeking consensus even more difficult.”
“We are of the view that any action by the Council should contribute to political and social stability of Myanmar and its peace and reconciliation, avoiding escalating the tension or further complicating the situation,” the diplomat said.
Russia’s UN mission is seeking instructions from Moscow on the draft statement, said Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, adding that the situation in Myanmar was “complex and volatile.”
The United Nations also raised fears on Monday that the coup will only worsen the plight of some 600,000 Rohingya who still live in the country.
“At this point in time, we must ensure the protection of people of Myanmar and their fundamental rights. We must do everything to prevent violence from breaking out,” Schraner Burgener said.