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UN General Assembly condemns Myanmar coup, calls for arms embargo

United Nations: In a rare move, the UN General Assembly has condemned Myanmar’s military coup and called for an arms embargo against the country in a resolution that demonstrated widespread global opposition to the junta and demanded the restoration of the country’s democratic transition.

Supporters had hoped the 193-member UN General Assembly would approve the resolution unanimously by consensus, but Belarus called for a vote on Friday New York time (Saturday AEST). The measure was approved with 119 countries voting “yes,” Belarus voting “no” and 36 countries abstaining including Myanmar’s neighbours China and India, along with Russia.

UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener warned the General Assembly after the vote that “the risk of a large-scale civil war (is) real”.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at right bumps elbows with with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Chongqing, China on June 8, 2021. Beijing abstained from the UN vote condemning the junta.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at right bumps elbows with with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Chongqing, China on June 8, 2021. Beijing abstained from the UN vote condemning the junta. Credit:Xinhua

“Time is of the essence,” she said. “The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing and regional threat increasing.”

The resolution was the result of lengthy negotiations by a so-called Core Group including the European Union and many Western nations and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as ASEAN, which includes Myanmar.

A UN diplomat said there was an agreement with ASEAN to seek consensus. But in the vote, its members were divided. Myanmar, whose UN ambassador supports the ousted democratic government, voted “yes” along with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines while Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei abstained.

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Even though the resolution didn’t get the overwhelming support its backers hoped for, the action by the General Assembly, while not legally binding, reflects international condemnation of the February 1 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s party from power and put her under arrest along with many government leaders and politicians, as well as strong opposition to the military crackdown on protesters demanding an end to the army’s takeover.

The resolution’s approval follows calls for more aggressive UN action by many countries and Myanmar’s UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who has been charged with treason by the military junta. He urged the international community “to take the strongest possible action to immediately end the military coup”.

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