Moments before voting in favor of a landmark General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, told fellow delegates in New York: “Myanmar understands and shares more than others the suffering faced by the people of Ukraine. ”
For the past 14 months, the people of Myanmar have been under attack from a brutal military government led by the deluded strongman, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, whose coup attempt on February 1, 2021 ended a decade of quasi-democracy in the country.
The generals have responded to the national civil resistance to the coup with a systematic campaign of mass murder, torture, sexual violence and abuse. In resistance strongholds, military forces are burning down entire villages and cutting off access to food supplies in an attempt to starve people into submission.
For the first time in decades, state capitals and ethnic minority areas are being bombed, reflecting the fact that the generals have lost control on the ground. IDP camps are being targeted by airstrikes and shelling, while massacres of unarmed civilians have become a hallmark of the generals’ growing barbarism in recent months. And yet, in contrast to the decisive response of the international system to Putin’s aggression, the response to Min Aung Hlaing’s attack on the people of Myanmar has been empty rhetoric at best.
In this, the UN Security Council, the most powerful body in the international system, has a lot of responsibility. Members of the United Nations Security Council took less than 24 hours to present a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was a timely and necessary response to the situation. In contrast, no member of the United Nations Security Council has ever tabled a resolution on Myanmar, despite decades of atrocities committed against ethnic minorities, including the genocidal “cleansing operation” against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017. , and more recently against the entire country by the Myanmar military. .
In short, the United Nations Security Council has failed to fulfill its legal responsibility under the UN Charter to act for international peace and security. It has failed in its responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
This should be a matter of deep concern to the UK government and to its diplomats in New York. As the former colonial occupier of Myanmar, the UK has assumed primary responsibility for Myanmar among Western states in the UN. Historically, he is the “drafter”, that is, the main drafter, of the resolutions on Myanmar in the General Assembly in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In those forums, the UK has done well. But in the Security Council?
At the Security Council in New York, the UK’s obsession with consensus and fear of failure have rendered it powerless in the face of one of the great humanitarian crises of this century. His thinking is that it is better not to introduce a resolution than to introduce it and have it vetoed by another permanent member, Russia or China, which shares close ties with the illegal military government and sells it weapons.
Instead, the UK has focused its efforts on building consensus by settling for lesser options, including non-binding statements on Myanmar that amount to little more than fine words. This reasoning crumbles under scrutiny.
Consensus was not an issue for the US and Albania, Ukraine’s co-authors, when they introduced a UN Security Council resolution denouncing Russian aggression, despite knowing it would be impossible to pass. The overwhelming public opposition of Council members to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s forceful defense of its actions, including the use of the veto, demonstrated Russia’s growing isolation on the international stage.
So why does the UK continue to shield the junta’s allies, Russia and China, from accountability in the Security Council instead of upholding the Council’s legal responsibility to act on behalf of the people of Myanmar? So why does the UK allow treacherous generals to go about its brutal business unimpeded?
The UK has a chance to act at last, having assumed the rotating monthly role of President of the United Nations Security Council in early April. This is an opportunity for leadership, if the UK is capable of it. Council chairs can set the agenda for the month in many ways, including indicating when they take office what the priorities will be and what they hope to accomplish.
Firstly, the UK should work with another Council member to convene an Arria Formula, or informal meeting, on Myanmar to allow members of the UN Security Council to be briefed on the situation by the wider public. well-informed civilian and other experts who cannot address formal Council sessions.
Second, the Arria Formula meeting is to be followed later in the month by an open United Nations Security Council meeting on Myanmar to allow for a formal debate on Myanmar. The UK should propose a resolution on Myanmar in the UN Security Council and bring it to a vote at that meeting. This would make it clear once and for all who sides with the people of Myanmar and who sides with Min Aung Hlaing and his murderous generals.
This resolution should demand that the illegal military government of Min Aung Hlaing stop its systematic campaign of violence against civilians. It should demand a comprehensive global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions against the junta and its companies, as well as the referral of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, where Min Aung Hlaing and the leaders of the military government should stand trial for their decades of heinous crimes. against the people of Burma. A Chinese or Russian veto of the resolution may be a likely outcome, but they will face immediate doom and long-term consequences.
The UK’s misguided obsession with consensus on Myanmar in the UN Security Council only serves to embolden Myanmar’s genocidal generals and member states seeking to profit from the chaos. With its April presidency underway, the UK’s main responsibility is not to protect China or Russia. It is the protection of the people of Myanmar. It is still not too late for the UK to show courage and exercise some leadership. Almost but still not too late.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.