Revised UN Resolution Waters Down Call for Halting Arms Sales to Myanmar

ASEAN had lobbied for the removal of a clause calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar that was included in an earlier draft of the UN General Assembly resolution.
Revised UN Resolution Waters Down Call for Halting Arms Sales to Myanmar Protesters prepare to burn the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, JUne 14, 2021.

Sponsors of a U.N. resolution on Myanmar appear to have weakened language barring international arms sales to the Southeast Asian country, where hundreds have been killed after a military coup, a revised draft uploaded on the General Assembly’s website Thursday shows.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had lobbied last month for the removal of a clause calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar and that was included in an older draft of the U.N. General Assembly resolution.

A senior diplomatic source who declined to be named confirmed to BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, that the resolution had been revised, but declined to say what exactly had been changed. The new draft was uploaded to the General Assembly’s website on Thursday afternoon.

“Yes, it has been revised,” the official said, when asked whether changes were made to the resolution.

The new draft resolution does not call for an “immediate suspension” of sales and transfers of weapons, munitions, and other military equipment to Myanmar, as the older one had done.

Instead it urges U.N. member-states “to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”

The resolution is set to be heard, and possibly voted on, in the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, according to a calendar of the day’s schedule on the website of the U.N. body. A vote on an earlier draft was postponed May 18.

On May 27, BenarNews was the first to report that ASEAN had sent a letter to the resolution’s sponsors proposing the deletion of the arms embargo paragraph – which was among the reasons for the vote’s postponement.

The revised clause in the new draft “Recalls, in line with the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire as supported by the Security Council in its resolution 2532 (2020) of 1 July 2020, the need to de-escalate violence, and in that regard calls upon all Member States to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”

Earlier this week, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said it was imperative for ASEAN to support an arms embargo on Myanmar, where security forces have killed more than 800 people – mostly anti-coup protesters – since the military toppled the elected government on Feb. 1.

“ASEAN must support the passing of a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a halt of weapons transfers to the Myanmar military,” Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday.

“Anything less is an abdication of ASEAN’s leadership role on the Myanmar crisis, and shows ASEAN is siding with a military that is continuing to kill and imprison unarmed protesters and other civilians.”

ASEAN ‘centrality’

ASEAN’s efforts to deal with the political crisis in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 military coup have largely been unsuccessful.

The United States, the G7 group, and the U.N. have all stressed ASEAN’s crucial role and “centrality” in dealing with Myanmar.

A senior diplomat from one of the resolution’s sponsor-countries told BenarNews last month that ASEAN wanted the draft resolution revised also because the bloc believed it should take the lead in resolving the post-coup crisis in Myanmar.

Accordingly, it appears the new draft has increased the number of references to the bloc’s importance in the region.

The latest draft has an addition to clause 5 – which is to encourage cooperation of a possible ASEAN envoy to Myanmar – a member of the regional bloc – with the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General.

The revised resolution also adds a call to Myanmar “to continue engaging” with ASEAN “taking into account the important role of the Association in continuing to assist Myanmar in its transition to democracy.”

Still, ASEAN has been roundly criticized for its perceived inaction on Myanmar.

While the regional bloc succeeded in hammering out a five-point consensus on Myanmar with the junta chief during a special summit of ASEAN leaders in late April, no action has been take on any of the points almost seven weeks since.

The consensus called for the “immediate cessation of violence,” which continues. On Wednesday, residents in central Myanmar told Radio Free Asia (RFA), a BenarNews sister entity, that four elderly villagers were killed after the Myanmar military set fire to their village the night before.

The bloc had called for a constructive dialogue among all parties, but no such dialogue has begun.

Among the other points agreed on was the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar and a visit by an ASEAN delegation to the crisis-ridden country, headed by that envoy.

No envoy has been named so far, amid reports of differences between ASEAN member-states on the issue. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore openly expressed their frustration at a delay in naming an envoy, at a meeting last week in China between foreign minister from the bloc and China.

Notably, no Asian or Southeast Asian country, except for South Korea, is among the 54 sponsors of the U.N. resolution, which was proposed by Liechtenstein.

On the same day at United Nations headquarters in New York, the Security Council is scheduled to hear from one of the two ASEAN officials from Brunei – ASEAN’s chair this year – who visited Myanmar earlier this month.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.


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