The United Nations General Assembly has called for a stop to the flow of arms to Myanmar and urged the military to respect November election results and release political detainees, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The United Nations logo is seen on a window in an empty hallway at United Nations headquarters during the 75th annual UN General Assembly high-level debate in New York, US, September 21, 2020.
The United Nations logo is seen on a window in an empty hallway at United Nations headquarters during the 75th annual UN General Assembly high-level debate in New York, US, September 21, 2020. (Reuters)

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 demonstrating widespread global opposition to the junta and demanding the restoration of the country’s democratic transition.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution with the support of 119 countries several months after the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government in a February 1 coup. Belarus requested the text be put to a vote and was the only country to oppose it, while 36 abstained, including China and Russia.

The remaining 37 General Assembly members did not vote.

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 with some including Indonesia and Vietnam voting “yes” and others including Thailand and Laos, abstaining.

The resolution didn’t get the overwhelming support its backers wanted. But the action by the General Assembly, while not legally binding, reflects international condemnation of the coup that ousted 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.

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'It delegitimises military junta'

European Union UN Ambassador Olof Skoog said the UN resolution "sends a strong and powerful" message: "It delegitimises the military junta, condemns its abuse and violence against its own people and demonstrates its isolation in the eyes of the world."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had earlier on Friday pushed the General Assembly to act, telling reporters: "We cannot live in a world where military coups become a norm. It is totally unacceptable."

The military cited the government's refusal to address what it said was fraud in a November election as the reason for the coup. International observers have said the ballot was fair.

An initial draft UN resolution included stronger language calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar. According to a proposal seen by Reuters last month, nine Southeast Asian countries wanted that language removed.

The compromise text "calls on all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar."

Unlike the 15-member Security Council, no country has veto power in the General Assembly.

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Calls to 'stop all violence against peaceful protesters'

The junta's forces have killed more than 860 people since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The junta says the number is much lower.

The UN resolution calls on the Myanmar military to "immediately stop all violence against peaceful protesters" and end restrictions on the internet and social media.

The General Assembly also called on Myanmar to swiftly implement a five-point consensus the junta forged with the ASEAN in April to halt violence and start dialogue with its opponents.

The 10-member ASEAN has led the main international diplomatic effort to find a way out of the crisis in Myanmar, but was split on Friday over the UN action.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar's UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who speaks for the country's elected civilian government, voted yes, while Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand abstained.

Kyaw Moe Tun said he was disappointed it took so long for the General Assembly to adopt a "watered down" resolution, adding: "It is critically important that no country should support the military."

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies