Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 399, 23 June 2021

Myanmar: New UNGA resolution
Anju C Joseph

In the news
On 18 June, United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution titled "The Situation in Myanmar" after 119 countries voted in favour, 36 abstained from voting, and one country voted against. The revised draft of the resolution was introduced by Liechtenstein and cosponsored by 58 other countries.
   
The US, UK, and EU, who had earlier responded with sanctions, joined the list of countries that voted in favour. In addition, five ASEAN countries and Myanmar's UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun voted for the resolution. Among countries that abstained from voting were China, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Iran, and Egypt. Belarus is the only country that voted against it.
 
Issues at large
First, major issues discussed in the resolution. The resolution starts with expressing grave concern about the declaration of the state of emergency in Myanmar. It endorsed constructive engagement of ASEAN and reiterated the central role of a five-point consensus to bring a peaceful solution. It condemned the use of lethal force and violence against peaceful demonstrators and members of civil society. The democratic transition in Myanmar, concerns regarding the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the ongoing conflict in Kachin, Kayin, Rakhine, Shan, and the southern Chin States, immediate and unconditional release of President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, other government officials, and politicians were other critical issues raised. The resolution was initiated by the Assembly following a briefing by the UN Special Envoy on the situation in Myanmar on 26 February; it was later revised after ASEAN countries disagreed with some draft provisions in May.
 
Second, explanation for not favouring the vote. Majority of Asian countries, mainly from South Asia and Southeast Asia, abstained from voting. Among the countries who explained abstaining from the vote, most importantly, Bangladesh said: "It fails to recognize in its operative part, the urgent need for creating conditions for the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of the displaced minorities of Myanmar, particularly the Rohingyas." Russia cited: "The draft resolution is notable for its politicized character, and its individual passages are openly tendentious or out of touch with reality". Unsurprisingly, China has also maintained its non-action stand on the Junta government. In its explanation of the vote, India did not comment on its abstinence but said it welcomes the ASEAN initiative. Belarus commented: "it does not accept country-specific resolutions… Such documents are always biased, carry one-sided interpretation of events & facts, and also lead to aggravation of the situation in the targeted states, interfering in their internal politics."
 
Third, the ASEAN response. The ASEAN divide on the resolution was notable after Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam voted "yes" along with the Myanmar government-in-exile's representative at the UN. At the same time, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand abstained. The non-ASEAN, Southeast Asian country, Timor Leste, also abstained from the vote. However, all ASEAN countries positively responded to the resolution's call upon Myanmar to swiftly implement the five-point consensus reached at the Leaders' Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held on 24 April 2021. ASEAN envoys earlier this month visited Myanmar to seek the swift implementation of the consensus to which the Myanmar Junta has agreed to co-operate. However, opponents of the Junta and many people in Myanmar have a fettered hope in the consensus. 
 
In perspective
Given the non-binding nature of the UNGA resolution, the move is unlikely to influence the ongoing situation. Nevertheless, the resolution signifies the overwhelming global consensus on the issue. As the UNGA reiterates and calls upon the Junta to implement a five-point consensus, the move might positively impact the current slow implementation process.

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