Last Thursday, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2669 calling for an end to violence and the release of political prisoners in Myanmar. The resolution, which passed 12-0 with India, China, and Russia abstaining, addresses nationwide conflict which intensified after Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (N.L.D.) party was elected as Supreme Counsellor in November 2020.
In February 2021, Myanmar’s military staged a coup detaining Suu Kyi and other N.L.D. members, with subsequent unlawful arrests of military opposition groups. In the wake of the takeover, former military officer Myint Swe became acting president and relinquished all power of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to the commander in chief of the armed forces. The junta sentenced State Counsellor Suu Kyi to 26 years in prison, including 3 years of hard labor. According to C.C.N., the deposed counsellor currently remains in solitary confinement at a prison in Naypyidaw.
Over 16,000 people besides Suu Kyi have been arrested on political charges, 13,000 of whom continue to be detained, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says, according to statistics it published at the start of this month on the state of arrests since the military takeover. At least 2,465 civilian deaths have occurred since February 2021, but, the Association notes, the true total could be much higher.
The junta’s terror also extends to human rights abuses toward Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority in Myanmar. At a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “…determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya.” Several hundred thousand Rohingya continue to fear discrimination and execution. Many of these have been displaced from their homes in the Rakhine state to seek safety in refugee camps across Southeast Asia.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador Barbara Woodward spoke to Resolution 2669 as a show of support for Myanmar’s people and a re-orientation to democracy. “We [the U.N.S.C.] stand with the people of Myanmar,” Woodward said, affirming the council’s position. “It is time for the junta to return the country to them… [I expect the] resolution to be implemented in full.”
Elaine Pearson, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, similarly believes the “resolution is a momentous step on behalf of the people of Myanmar, opening the door toward holding Myanmar’s brutal generals to account.” But not everyone is as optimistic. Tom Andrews, the independent U.N. special investigator on Myanmar, expressed his doubt about the resolution’s ability to “stop the junta from attacking and destroying the lives of the 54 million in Myanmar.” Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, likewise expressed doubts, noting that the resolution lacked robust consequences.
“Neither democratic transition nor national reconciliation can be achieved overnight, and both require time, patience, and pragmatism,” said China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun.
Myanmar has lived under military rule for over five decades since it declared independence in 1948. A path to a civilian-led government was only made possible with the issue of a new constitution in 2008. However, when the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (U.S.D.P.) lost seats and the N.L.D. took a clear majority in the 2020 parliamentary election, the U.S.D.P. refused to relinquish control, claiming that the election was fraudulent and irregular. (The nation’s electoral commission debunked these claims of fraudulent election activity.) In January 2021, Military Senior General Min warned that the military would take action if the opening of parliament was not delayed. This threat was substantiated by the coup the following month.
Now that the U.N. has passed Resolution 2669, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) has an opportunity to re-invigorate diplomatic talks with Myanmar’s current military leadership. According to A.B.C. News, the resolution calls for an immediate end to violence, an A.S.E.A.N. special envoy to mediate negotiation proceedings, a visit by that envoy to Myanmar to meet all concerned parties, and provision of humanitarian aid through A.S.E.A.N. channels. Resolution 2669 does not absolve the atrocities perpetuated in Myanmar, but rather opens a door to renewed diplomacy. International direction is one step forward, but ensuring progress towards a just, legitimate ruling party requires monitoring from neighboring states.
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