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China blocks UN response to Myanmar military coup

China blocked a UN Security Council statement tackling Myanmar’s military coup.[Getty]

Date of publication: 3 February, 2021

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An old-time ally of Myanmar, China used its veto power to stop a UK-drafted statement from being ratified by the 15 members of the UN’s Security Council.

China blocked a UN Security Council statement tackling Myanmar’s military coup, after an emergency meeting was held by the international body on Tuesday.

China, an old-time ally of Myanmar, used its veto power to prevent a UK-drafted statement from being ratified by the 15 members of the UN Security Council.

The UN envoy on Myanmar urged the member states to sign the document which would "collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy".

"China and Russia have asked for more time," one diplomat told AFP following the behind-closed-doors videoconference meeting in New York that lasted just over two hours.

"A statement is still under discussion," confirmed another diplomat, also on condition of anonymity.

According to a draft of the text seen by AFP, the United Nations Security Council would call for a return to civilian power following Monday's bloodless coup in which elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other top politicians were detained.

The text, drafted by the UK, would also call for Myanmar's military to "immediately release those unlawfully detained".

It would also demand that the one-year state of emergency be repealed and "for all sides to adhere to democratic norms". The draft does not mention sanctions.

To be adopted, it requires the support of China, Myanmar's main supporter at the UN and a veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council.

During the Rohingya crisis in 2017, China thwarted any initiative at the council to meet on Myanmar or issue joint statements.

Beijing insisted the brutal military crackdown of the Muslim minority was an internal issue.

Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations' envoy to Myanmar, briefed the 15-member council on the latest developments at Tuesday's meeting.

"She urged Council members to collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy in Myanmar," according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The UK, which holds the rotating council presidency for the month of February, had long planned to hold a meeting on Myanmar this week, but brought it forward given the circumstances.

China had demanded the discussion to take place in private, diplomats told AFP.

Its foreign ministry had on Monday called for all sides in Myanmar to "resolve differences."

'Targeted sanctions'

The UK's ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, told reporters after the meeting that she hoped the Council will "be able to speak with one voice".

"Discussions will continue among Council colleagues on next steps," she added.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released statements calling on the council to take a firm stand.

"Had the Security Council acted decisively and strongly from day one, we might not be in a situation where the lives and liberty of people across Myanmar are now at even greater risk," said Amnesty's Sherine Tadros.

She called on the council to impose "targeted financial sanctions" on Myanmar's military leaders and a "comprehensive global arms embargo" on the country.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch, also demanded "targeted sanctions" on the coup leaders.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won November elections in a landslide, but the military now claims those polls were tainted by fraud.

The last Security Council meeting on Myanmar was in September and was also behind closed doors.

Its last joint declaration on the country was adopted in 2018.

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