The UN has taken the rare step of asking its member states to stop arms sales to Myanmar as a military coup continues to cause unrest in the Asian nation.
In a non-binding resolution passed on Friday, the UN General Assembly called for countries to “prevent the flow of arms” into the country, also demanding that the military leaders involved in the insurgence “immediately stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators”.
It also urged the military junta to release political detainees and respect the election results from November 2020, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party returned to power.
The resolution won 119 votes, with 36 countries abstaining, including Russia and China, the country’s two biggest arms suppliers. One country – Belarus – opposed the resolution.
Myanmar’s envoy, Kyaw Moe Tun, who represents the country’s elected civilian government, voted in favour. He has passionately rejected the coup and brushed aside the junta’s claims that he no longer represents Myanmar. The UN still considers him as the rightful envoy.
He said he regretted it had taken three months for the assembly to pass what he labelled a “watered down” resolution.
Military kills 860, with 5000 arrested in coup
The military seized power in Myanmar in February, alleging voter fraud in November’s election as justification for the coup.
Over the four months since, elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest.
The move by the country’s military has led to widespread protests around the Asian nation, with violent clashes erupting between the army and civilian demonstrators.
During the violence, security forces have killed more than 860 people and arrested nearly 5000 so far, according to monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Last month, Human Rights Watch had urged the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for an arms embargo, saying that “while not legally binding on states, such a resolution would carry significant political weight”.
“Governments should recognise that arms sold to Myanmar’s military will likely be used to commit abuses against the population,” the organisation added. “Arms embargoes can help prevent such crimes.”
Protesters send birthday message to Suu Kyi
Meanwhile, Myanmar protesters donned flowers in their hair on Saturday to mark Ms Suu Kyi’s 76th birthday.
Flowers tucked into a bun have long been a signature look of the embattled leader.
Many replicated the floral hairstyle and uploaded pictures onto social media across Myanmar on Saturday.
Among them was Myanmar Miss Universe beauty queen Thuzar Wint Lwin, who wore red flowers in her hair and wrote: “May our leader be healthy.”
In Yangon’s north, protesters put up posters on power lines wishing Suu Kyi a happy birthday and expressing solidarity.
“Happy Birthday Mother Suu. We are right behind you,” the signs read.
– with wires