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NNWN/08/05/2021

Three months after the military junta seized power in Myanmar, 200 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have called on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the military rulers. The call came despite opposition from China — the junta’s main backer — and Russia, both of which hold veto-wielding power on the council, to any sanctions amid the months-long crisis. In the statement, the NGOs said that no government should sell a single bullet to the junta. “Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence.”The civilian government of Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by the military junta and several groups have called in vain for an arms embargo.

Amnesty’s Lawrence Moss said mere condemnation by the international community has had no effect. “It is time for the UN Security Council to use its unique powers to impose a comprehensive global arms embargo in order to try and end the military’s killing spree,” Moss said in a statement. Human Rights Watch’s Louis Charbonneau stated that the Council not even debating an embargo is “an appalling abdication of its responsibilities toward the people of Myanmar.”

“The council’s occasional statements of concern in the face of the military’s violent repression of largely peaceful protesters is the diplomatic equivalent of shrugging their shoulders and walking away,” Charbonneau added. The UN security council has unanimously adopted four statements on Myanmar, but each time, they have been watered down in negotiations, notably by Beijing.

The groups said that the United Kingdom, the council’s designated drafter of Myanmar texts, should immediately open negotiations at the Security Council on a draft resolution authorizing an arms embargo. The UK has been reluctant to do so, prioritizing consensus statements supported by all council members over a resolution with substantive measures that China, Russia, and other members might initially oppose. “No government should sell a single bullet to the junta under these circumstances,” the groups said in their appeal. “Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence. Arms and materiel provided to Myanmar’s security forces are likely to be used by the security forces to commit abuses in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Myanmar’s military nullified the country’s November 2020 election results and imposed a manufactured “state of emergency.” State security forces have killed over 760 people since the coup and arbitrarily detained more than 3,600, including journalists, medical personnel, teachers, students, and others in violation of international human rights law. Hundreds may have been forcibly disappeared. The groups’ appeal for an arms embargo echoes and broadens a February 24 declaration by 137 nongovernmental organizations, which urged the Security Council to act swiftly to halt the flow of weapons to the junta.