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UN Security Council Burma Resolution Will Have No Practical Impact

December 21st, 2022  •  Author:   Burma Campaign UK  •  4 minute read
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Bi-lateral pressure needed on India and Pakistan over arms sales.

Burma Campaign UK today welcomed the passing of the first ever UN Security Council Resolution on Burma as a significant moment symbolically, but warned that as it fails to deliver any practical action, it will have no practical impact.

The Resolution passed with 12 countries in favour and Russia, China and India abstaining.

Democracy and human rights activists from Burma have been calling for a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma for more than 17 years. However, the Resolution has been watered down to the point where it will have absolutely no practical impact on the ground. Instead, it must be seen as a stepping-stone towards further practical action by the UN Security Council.

“The imposition of a global arms embargo should have been a no-brainer first step by the UN Security Council, but the supply of arms doesn’t even get a mention in the Resolution,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Russia, China and India are using their seats on the Security Council to protect their profitable dodgy arms deals with the Burmese military.”

UN Security Council Members which support a global arms embargo but failed to get it passed by the UN Security Council must now step up and coordinate pressure on countries supplying arms, starting with India and Pakistan.

The new Resolution calls for the release of political prisoners, implementation of the weak and already failed ASEAN five-point consensus, and an end to violence.

Three UN Security Council members, Russia, India and China are actively arming the Burmese military while the USA, which voted in favour of the Resolution, is still allowing American companies to fund and work for the Burmese military and their businesses, including Chevron, Apple, and Google. Chevron is linked to gas revenue payments to the military and the delivery of aviation fuel.

The Resolution also takes no action to address numerous violations of international law by the Burmese military, including genocide of the Rohingya.

“As the lead country on Burma at the UN Security Council the British government must urgently convene a meeting on Burma’s non-compliance with provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice to prevent ongoing genocide of the Rohingya,” said Mark Farmaner. “The ICJ is a UN Court and it’s the responsibility of the UN Security Council to ensures its rulings are followed. The Security Council failed to act to prevent genocide of the Rohingya, failed to make a referral to the International Criminal Court and is now failing to ensure measures to prevent ongoing genocide are implemented.”

The campaign for UN Security Council action on Burma was launched in September 2005 with the publication of a report, Threat to the Peace, commissioned from DLA Piper by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The legal study found that the situation in Burma met the definition of a threat to international peace and security and that the UN Security Council has an obligation to intervene.

In September 2006 the UN Security Council voted to place Burma on its agenda. Veto power does not apply to placing items on the agenda, instead nine votes are required. Ten countries voted in favour with Russia, China, Qatar and Democratic Republic of Conger (DRC) voting against.

In January 2007 Russia and China vetoed a non-binding resolution calling for dialogue and reconciliation. South Africa also voted against the resolution.

The British government, as the lead country (penholder) on Burma at the UN Security Council, ensured that Burma remained on the UN Security Council agenda since then. Whilst there have been various statements over the years, they have been watered down so significantly to achieve consensus that they bore very little reality to the serious crisis situation on the ground and had no practical impact.

For decades the UN Security Council has completely failed in its legal mandated responsibilities towards Burma, allowing ongoing violations of international law, including ongoing genocide, violations of Burma’s treaty obligations, and conflict and violations of international humanitarian law, leading to ongoing regional instability. The new Resolution continues that record of failure.

“When people in Burma look at this Resolution, they will wonder why the UN Security Council bothered,” said Mark Farmaner. “At the United Nations it might be seen as a diplomatic coup to get this resolution passed but in Burma it will have no impact for people living under a military coup.”

Further information:

The Threat to the Peace report is available here.

The Importance and futility of Security Council Statements on Burma, 2020 blog by Burma Campaign UK.

UN Security Council Resolution Lacks Action Against Myanmar Military Junta, In Face Of Atrocity Crimes
Press Release from Progressive Voice

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