UN Security Council condemns Myanmar military over ‘unrelenting violence’

Joint statement from 13 members of 15-seat council says generals must stop killing civilians and end the crisis.

Myanmar's military parades with its weapons in Naypyidaw
The military has been accused by the UN and others of killing civilians [File: Aung Shine Oo/AP Photo]

Members of the United Nations Security Council – with the exception of veto-wielding China and Russia – have condemned the “unrelenting violence” raging across Myanmar following a closed-door briefing on the crisis.

The 13 council members again urged the generals who led a coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021 to end the violence and stop killing civilians, noting there had been “insufficient progress” on implementing December’s landmark Security Council resolution on Myanmar.

“We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar and its impact on the people of Myanmar,” said Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki as he read out the statement at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

Diplomats from the 12 other countries that had signed up to the statement stood alongside Kariuki as he reiterated their particular concern over “the use of air strikes”.

Kariuki said the council had been briefed by relief chief Martin Griffiths, who visited Myanmar last week in a trip that has been criticised by civil society groups working in and on Myanmar. Assistant Secretary General Khaled Khiari also updated the council on efforts to resolve the crisis triggered by the coup.

The generals sparked a mass rebellion when they seized power, jailing Aung San Suu Kyi and the elected government, and the situation has now deteriorated into what some have described as a civil war.

The military, while a pariah on the international stage, has deepened links with Russia and turned to air power to end the uprising, ignoring a plan to end the violence that it agreed with its fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) two months after seizing power.

Kariuki said that more than 18 million people in Myanmar were in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the crisis, and two million had been forced from their homes. Some 15 million people were “food insecure”, he added.

“We repeat our call for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need,” he said, echoing a call made by Griffiths following his visit to the country.

The council meeting also discussed a report this month by UN independent investigators who said Myanmar’s military and its affiliated militias are committing increasingly frequent and brazen war crimes.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, established in 2018 by the Human Rights Council, said it also found strong evidence during the year ending in June of the indiscriminate and disproportionate targeting of civilians with bombs, mass executions of people detained during military operations, and large-scale burning of civilian homes.

Kariuki declined to comment when asked about the chances of further action from the Security Council.

The United States UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, however, said that given the military’s “intransigence and continued human rights abuses”, the Security Council needed to take action beyond last December’s resolution.

In that vote, China and Russia abstained along with India whose two-year term on the council has now ended.

Myanmar’s UN-accredited ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and has retained his seat, urged the council to adopt a resolution banning the supply of weapons, jet fuel and financial flows to the military.

On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department announced it was further expanding its sanctions on Myanmar to include foreign companies or individuals helping the military procure jet fuel.

“This expands our ability to exert pressure on Burma’s military regime while further supporting the people of Burma,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement, using the former name for Myanmar.

“The United States will continue to seek to deprive the military regime of the resources that enable its oppression of the people of Burma.”

Campaigners welcomed the expansion of US sanctions to jet fuel.

“The US has just put all international companies on notice that if they are directly or indirectly involved in the supply of aviation fuel to Burma, they could face sanctions,” Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK said in a statement. “Limiting aviation fuel deliveries to Burma is one of the most effective things the [US] can do to address the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma.”

The Treasury also added to its sanctions list two individuals, Khin Phyu Win and Zaw Min Tun, as well as three companies linked to them, said to be involved in the procurement and distribution of jet fuel for the military.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies