Analysis

Who Are Myanmar’s Friends?

By Dr. Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan 3 March 2021

The Feb. 26 special meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York is an indicator of the significant international support for the civil resistance to the Myanmar military’s seizure of power.

At that meeting, representatives of 35 governments and three regional organizations stated their view of the military coup, and what type of action should be taken in response to it.

After comments by the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, gave a powerful intervention in which he denounced the military’s seizure of power, confirmed that the country’s legitimate authority is represented by the elected parliamentarians who constitute the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, and called on UN member states “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military”.

Unusually for the UN General Assembly, his speech received applause from many of the government delegates in the room, subsequent to which 18 government representatives , including the representatives speaking on behalf of the European Union, the Nordic States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, amended their prepared statements to acknowledge the inspiring and courageous remarks by Myanmar’s Permanent Representative.

Public denunciation of the coup

Fifteen government or regional delegations publicly and unambiguously condemned the coup; however  not a single neighboring state, and no delegate from ASEAN publicly denounced the coup.  China and Russia, in particular, continued to insist that events in Myanmar were an internal matter from which the international community should refrain from involving itself.

Fifteen governmental representatives called for an immediate halt in the use of violence by the military and police on civilian demonstrations in Myanmar. Once again, however, this did not include any direct neighbor of Myanmar, and only Singapore from the ASEAN bloc.

Calls for respect of fundamental human freedoms

Fifteen government representatives called for respect of fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression. This issue was the only one which most ASEAN delegates, including neighboring Thailand, called for, as it was reflected in the ASEAN Chair’s statement on the situation in Myanmar made on the same day as the military coup in which he emphasized the need for Myanmar, as a member of ASEAN, to adhere to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Seventeen government delegations called for the immediate and unconditional release of all politicians, journalists and members of the public arrested since the start of the coup. This was the only issue raised by the neighboring state of India, and also supported by ASEAN member Singapore.

Governmental delegations also noted their solidarity with the civilian resistance by expressing their sorrow for all the families of people killed and injured, called for accountability for crimes against human rights and international humanitarian law, announced sanctions, called for the reinstatement of the elected government, unhindered access to all conflict-affected communities for humanitarian aid, and cooperation by Myanmar with human rights and other mechanisms, specifying the obligations imposed by the International Court of Justice, the investigations by the International Criminal Court, the Independent Fact Finding Mission and implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

Liechtenstein and Costa Rica, both states which noted in their statement that they do not maintain any military forces in their own country, called for an end to any arms transfers to Myanmar.

Direct quotations 

The representative from Liechtenstein made clear that, “The protests in Myanmar represent the values the UN was built on and we have a collective responsibility to stand up for them.”

The new representative of the United States of America, making her very first statement at any UN meeting, said, “We urge every UN member state to use any channel available to tell the military of Myanmar that violence against the people will not be tolerated.”

Perhaps surprising for many people in Myanmar, were the strong and encouraging remarks by the representative of Gambia who was unambiguous in their call for the immediate unconditional release of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, stating, “There is absolutely no justification to usurp power in total disregard for the will of the people. The elections were legitimately won and the results must be respected. A strong message must be sent that their actions are unacceptable… We had our own experience of a losing regime which negated the will of the people, and support from the international community made all the difference… We are deeply disturbed by the use of brutal force against peaceful citizens. The junta must be held accountable for violations of the human rights of the people… The international community must uphold and defend the will of the people of Myanmar who are currently in a very tough place.”

The entire 3 hour session of the UN General Assembly meeting of 26 February can be found here.  

Dr. Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan is an independent scholar and researcher.

 

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  1. Albania, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, United States of America, EU, Nordic States, OIC.
  2. Albania, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Gambia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand,
  3. Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, EU, Nordic States.
  4. Albania, Australia, Czech Republic, Gambia, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States of America, EU and OIC.
  5. Argentina, Brunei, Czech Republic, Gambia, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine and Nordic States.
  6. Albania, Argentina, Australia, Gambia, India, Israel, Japan,  Mexico, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, United States of America, Nordic States.

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