JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Nine Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries have demanded the removal of a call for an arms embargo listed in a United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) resolution draft on Myanmar.
Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have reportedly submitted a formal request to Liechtenstein — which drafted the resolution — to drop the provision pertaining to the sale of weaponry in the draft resolution.
The nine nations stressed that further negotiations are crucial in garnering support for the contents of the resolution draft, especially to those who are directly involved in efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis that was triggered by the Tatmadaw coup in early February.
The draft resolution, they said in a letter dated 19 May, “cannot command the widest possible support in its current form, especially from all countries directly affected in the region” and that further negotiations are needed “to make the text acceptable, especially to the countries most directly affected and who are now engaged in efforts to resolve the situation”.
“It is also our firm conviction that if a General Assembly resolution on the situation in Myanmar is to be helpful to countries in ASEAN, then it needs to be adopted by consensus,” the countries wrote.
ASEAN’s rejection of UNGA draft “understandable” as Myanmar already unconditionally agreed to the association’s consensus
International relations expert, Dr Yusran opined that ASEAN’s rejection of the UNGA draft was understandable, given that Myanmar had already agreed on the consensus reached at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Jakarta at the end of April.
The consensus focused on several points such as:
- Prohibiting all violence;
- Distributing humanitarian aid;
- Resuming constructive dialogue with all concerned parties with the assistance of the ASEAN Secretary-General and ASEAN envoy as a facilitator; and
- A meeting between a special envoy and all conflicting parties in Myanmar.
“ASEAN is in a process of resolving the conflict in Myanmar following the summit … What ASEAN has done is acceptable, as the draft may affect the effort. Secondly, ASEAN has seen several UN resolutions that turned out to be ineffective for the countries such resolutions were made for.
“That was why ASEAN rejected the draft. ASEAN hoped that the UN would have produced a resolution focusing on the release of political prisoners instead, including that of Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi,” Dr Yusran told TOC on 31 May.
The embargo will complicate the conflict resolution, he added. Previous embargoes imposed by the UN have failed to stop a country from buying and selling arms, the lecturer at Budi Luhur University noted.
For example, the UN Security Council resolution on an arms embargo on Somalia backfired by benefitting terrorist groups instead, as the prohibition affected only the country’s legitimate government from buying weapons.
The same situation also took place in Libya during the Civil War in 2011 that led to the assassination of the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Another crucial element to consider in ASEAN’s rejection of the arms embargo provision is that the relevant draft resolution will be vetoed by Russia and China, both of which have close relationships with Myanmar, he added.
ASEAN has repeatedly faced criticism for being too slow in responding to Myanmar’s military coup and the subsequent violence against peaceful protesters, journalists, activists, and protestors, and civilians suspected of being against the junta.
The Tatmadaw, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, has sacked over 100 Myanmar diplomats across the globe for protesting the coup, as revealed by a leaked document published in Kyodo.
The coup followed Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy victory in the Nov general election last year.
ASEAN’s non-intervention principle is also often blamed for halting the enforcement of human rights, such as what is happening to Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims — often dubbed “the world’s most persecuted minority”.