Sunday, October 24, 2021

Southeast Asian nations oppose UN arms embargo on Myanmar

Human Rights Watch denounces Asean for lobbying to remove the arms embargo provision from the UN resolution.

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Nine Southeast Asian countries have urged the United Nations not to endorse a freeze on arms sales to Myanmar, according to a report from Benar News, the Asian online news service.

The report by the affiliate of the US-funded Radio Free Asia, quoted a Liechtenstein diplomat as saying the nine states wrote a letter to nations sponsoring a draft UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar.

The news outlet said the letter asked countries sponsoring the draft resolution to remove a sentence calling for “an immediate suspension of the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons and munitions” to Myanmar.

The letter was sent on behalf of nine of the 10 members of the Asean grouping but did not include bloc member Myanmar.

Benar News quoted Georg Sparber, deputy permanent representative at Liechtenstein’s mission to the UN, as saying there was “no reason given in the letter” for the request. However, he declined to release a copy of the letter.

A high-ranking official from one of the resolution’s sponsor-countries, meanwhile, told Benar News that Asean wanted the draft revised because the bloc believes it should take the lead in resolving the crisis in Myanmar.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry said he was unaware of the letter and referred Reuters to Asean. A spokesman for Asean did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Asean is leading the diplomatic effort to end bloodshed in Myanmar and promote dialogue between the junta and its opponents.

A planned vote on the non-binding resolution by the UN General Assembly was suspended last week, with some diplomats saying the delay was to rally more support.

Human Rights Watch denounced Asean for lobbying to remove the arms embargo provision from the UN resolution.

“To put it bluntly, Asean is trying to gut the UN General Assembly resolution’s call for an arms embargo against Myanmar, which is absolutely necessary to stop Burmese junta’s violence against its own people,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division said via Twitter on Wednesday.

Many analysts and rights activists have criticised the Southeast Asian bloc for not taking quick action on Myanmar over the past four months while Myanmar’s security forces have killed over 800 people, mostly anti-coup protesters.

Many Myanmar citizens are disappointed with the international community, said Aaron Connelly, an analyst at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“When I speak to people in Myanmar now, there is extraordinary disillusionment with the US and Europe, and red-hot enmity toward China, and Asean member states,” Connelly said on Twitter.

“The reputational damage resulting from the international community’s response will last a long time.”

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