In a rare consensus on Myanmar, the United Nations Security Council on Thursday called for the Myanmar military regime to release detainees, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, who were arrested during the military’s pre-dawn takeover of power on Monday. The move came as two UNSC members, China and Russia, both of which have good relationships with the Myanmar military, finally agreed to the statement.
The UNSC members also expressed deep concern at the Myanmar military’s imposition of a one-year state of emergency after taking power, and at the arbitrary detention of the country’s democratically elected leaders.
Both the elected President and Myanmar’s de-facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have been charged with offenses widely viewed as ridiculous. The President was moved from his official residence at the Presidential Palace to a home outside the compound on Friday.
The statement from the UN Security Council reads: “The members of the Security Council emphasized the need for the continued support of the democratic transition in Myanmar. They stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. They encouraged the pursuance of dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”
Myanmar netizens, who are more active than ever despite the military regime’s attempt to block Facebook, the country’s most popular social media platform, didn’t take long to comment on the UNSC statement.
One Facebook user with knowledge of UN procedures said the UN “seldom” makes such comments, while noted historian Dr. Thant Myint U tweeted that the UNSC decision represents a “rare consensus on anything about Myanmar.”
U Aung Myo Min, a veteran human rights advocate and the director of Equality Myanmar, echoed this view, saying, “It is historic as all of the 15 UNSC members support [the statement] in unity.”
“A window has now opened and we have to keep working to open the main door in order to take further actions,” he told The Irrawaddy.
The statement followed a closed-door meeting of the UNSC to discuss the issue on Tuesday, a day after the coup.
At the meeting, Christine Schraner Burgener, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, urged the UNSC to unite in support of democracy in Myanmar. She said, “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.”
However, the UNSC avoided using the term “coup”, as China and Russia did not agree to condemn the coup leaders.
With a majority of Myanmar’s population opposed to military rule, this week world leaders including US President Joe Biden condemned the coup and vowed to help restore democracy in Myanmar. The US also warned of new sanctions.
On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the coup “absolutely unacceptable,” urging the international community to make sure democracy is protected in Myanmar.
And in a statement on Monday, Tom Andrews, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urged the international community to show resolve in denouncing the military’s actions, to take decisive actions including strong targeted sanctions, and to ensure that those responsible for the country’s past human rights violations are held accountable.
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