U.N. Postpones Vote To Halt Arms Supply To Myanmar

A United Nations General Assembly vote on a draft resolution to immediately suspend military aid to Myanmar was postponed, according to Reuters. The U.N. resolution also presses the ruling military to discontinue “attacks on, harassment of and restrictions on medical personnel, human rights defenders, labor union members, journalists and media workers … and restrictions on the internet and social media.” The vote was originally intended for May 21st at 7:00 GMT, but as of this writing, the new scheduled time is not yet known.

Along with the push to advance the resolution through the General Assembly, new sanctions from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada were imposed on Myanmar’s new military regime. A suspension of arms supply to Myanmar would heed the calls of several non-governmental organizations.

The movement to end military aid comes amid ongoing concerns of Myanma military rule and violence against peaceful protestors after the February coup. The U.N. warns that the combined effects of the coup and the coronavirus pandemic are likely to cause a poverty crisis in the country. Achim Steiner of the U.N. Development Program argued in April that the protracted military crisis will worsen the social safety net and migrant issues.

Diplomats say that the draft resolution’s proponents have delayed the vote to give themselves time to seek the support it needs to successfully pass. According to the South China Morning Post, South Korea was the only Asian country to join 47 co-sponsors in support of the resolution. China remains the most significant impediment to the U.N.’s efforts to adopt a statement condemning the Myanma military regime.

While the diplomats are justified in delaying the U.N. vote on the resolution in order to garner more support, deferred action may result in more casualties and more stolen legitimacy for the military government in Myanmar. Perhaps the United Nations Security Council could convene and vote to take peaceful action against the Myanma junta in an effort to re-establish democracy. China and the West must find common ground on this issue, which not only involves questions of democracy, but also the investments these countries have made in the name of stability.

The Myanma military launched a coup against the democratically elected ruling National League for Democracy (N.L.D.) party on the morning of February 1, 2021. The military justified the coup and its arrest of N.L.D. leader Aung San Suu Kyi with allegations of electoral fraud in the nation’s November elections. However, Reuters notes, the election commission said that there was no widespread fraud. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (A.A.P.P.) in Myanmar, 812 people have been killed and 4,258 have been detained as of May 21st. (The regime disputes the A.A.P.P.’s number of dead.) As political strife continues to coat Myanmar’s streets, the chair of the junta-backed Union Election Commission reported on May 21st that the Commission will dissolve the N.L.D. party.

The United Nations should treat the Myanma military’s actions as exactly what they are: a breach of international law and order. The coup is a power grab based on an unfounded allegation of voter fraud. The country’s neighbors, China in particular, have failed to condemn the ruling junta’s continued repression of its citizens. The military is intent on cementing its ill-gotten authority; the most powerful nations in the world have a responsibility to promote peace and a return to democracy in Myanmar.

By seizing democratic institutions, the Myanma military is implementing what appears to be an eclipse of the country’s democratic progress that the junta does not plan on halting. This military coup puts lives, livelihoods, and diplomacy at risk. It is an unfortunate sign of diminishing faith in democracy that every United Nations member state in Asia, with the exception of South Korea, is unwilling to pursue diplomatic intervention by co-sponsoring the U.N. draft resolution. In the time before the vote, governments and N.G.O.s should be proactive in their response to the crises caused by the military rule. Meanwhile, it is incumbent upon the rest of the world to recognize the perils facing democracy by supporting the draft resolution.

Benjamin Fikhman