The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called on Myanmar’s ruling military junta to release all political prisoners, including ousted State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and former President Win Myint, in its first resolution passed on the Southeast Asian country since its independence.
UNSC Resolution 2669 on Myanmar expressed “deep concern over the ongoing state of emergency imposed by the military” and emphasized the need to address several long-standing problems. It also calls for increased humanitarian assistance to victims of violence, with an emphasis on women, children and displaced populations, including the Rohingya, a persecuted mostly Muslim minority.
The move comes nearly two years after the military staged a violent coup, toppling the democratically elected government and arresting civilian leaders, including Suu Kyi.
Freedoms and rights in Myanmar under the military junta have deteriorated markedly. State executions have returned, thousands of people have been arrested for protesting against the military government, and the number of documented violent attacks by the military on civilian areas, including schools, has increased, according to non-governmental organizations. The junta says it is fighting what it calls “terrorists” and promises a return to peace.
Wednesday’s resolution was proposed by the United Kingdom 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 number of charges. So far, the 77-year-old former Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been sentenced to 26 years in prison, including three years of hard labor. The convictions, which critics and international observers say are politically motivated, mostly relate to the November 2020 general election that his National League for Democracy won in a landslide, defeating a party created by the military .
In a statement Wednesday, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States applauded the Security Council for passing the resolution. “With this resolution, the international community demands that the military regime in Burma cease its horrific violence, immediately release those arbitrarily detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access, protect minority groups,” he said, referring to Myanmar by its older name.
But he said it “represents only one step towards ending the bloodshed. Much more must be done,” adding the UNSC must “promote accountability for the atrocities and abuses of Burma’s military regime.”
“Since the junta violently seized power in February 2021, they have waged a brutal campaign against the people of Myanmar: burning villages, carrying out indiscriminate airstrikes, torture and mass murder,” the British ambassador told the UN, 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 suppress the people’s calls for peace and democracy,” has added . . ”
The news received a mixed response from rights groups calling for more action.
Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan responded to the UNSC’s efforts, calling it “a missed opportunity for stronger action,” but reiterated the urgent need for a better plan to action
“[W]We cannot deny that Council members missed an opportunity for stronger action. Most importantly, they did not create a mechanism for regular reporting on the situation in Myanmar. This is an ever-evolving and deepening crisis. Therefore, it is urgent that Council members treat this resolution as a first step in developing a comprehensive and ongoing action plan.
Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the “resolution is a momentous step on behalf of the people of Myanmar, opening the door to hold Myanmar’s brutal generals to account.”
Pearson added that “the resolution should bring renewed scrutiny to the junta’s daily atrocities and recognition of the courageous efforts of the Myanmar people towards democracy and freedom.”