Security council yet to agree on statement condemning Myanmar coup

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The UN Security Council has failed to agree on a joint statement condemning Monday’s coup in Myanmar, after a two-hour long emergency meeting failed to secure the support of China, a key Myanmar ally and a veto-holding permanent member of the council.

The meeting, which was held virtually, followed the military’s detention of Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and other top politicians in a series of early morning raids on Monday, after which armed forces chief, Min Aung Hlaing assumed power.

The Security Council is negotiating a possible statement, drafted by Britain, that would not only condemn the coup, but also calls for the military to respect the rule of law and human rights and immediately release those unlawfully detained, diplomats said. Such statements have to be agreed by consensus.

Diplomats said discussions on a statement would continue.

“China and Russia have asked for more time,” one diplomat told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, following the behind-closed-doors video conference meeting that lasted just over two hours.

The 15-member council was considering a UK-drafted statement that the United Nations’ envoy on Myanmar told diplomats should “collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy” in the country.

The text, drafted by Britain, would also demand that the state of emergency be repealed and “for all sides to adhere to democratic norms.” There was no mention of sanctions, according to AFP.

The military has said its coup was constitutional and promised to hold new elections, claiming last November’s poll was fraudulent without evidence. A state of emergency will remain in force for one year.

Human rights groups condemned the failure of the council to take swift action.

The security council met as Aung San Suu Kyi was reported to be in “good health’’.

Her whereabouts and condition remain unknown although she is thought to be being held in the country’s remote capital of Naypyidaw where she has a home.

While she has apparently backed protests, people have been reluctant to take to the streets given the military’s reputation for brutality and previous crackdowns on peaceful rallies.

Instead, a campaign of civil disobedience began on Wednesday with staff at 70 hospitals and medical departments in 30 towns across Myanmar stopping work to protest against the coup.

People in Yangon also picked up pots and pans on Tuesday night to bang out their disgust at the power grab.

Consolidating its grip on power, the military unveiled a new governing council headed by Min Aung Hlaing and including eight generals. The council echoes similar councils that ruled Myanmar during decades of military dictatorship from 1962.

The security council’s statement requires the support of China, Myanmar’s main supporter at the UN and a permanent member of the Security Council. China has not condemned the coup, while state media characterised Monday’s events as a “cabinet reshuffle”.

China, with Russia’s backing, shielded Myanmar from any significant council action after a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State led to more than 740,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh, where they remain.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Western states accused the Myanmar military of ethnic cleansing, which it denied.

The country is currently being investigated for genocide at the International Court of Justice over its treatment of the Rohingya in a case brought by The Gambia.

The United Nations also raised fears on Monday that the coup will only worsen the plight of some 600,000 Rohingya who still live in the country.

Aljazeera, AFP