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UN Security Council to meet over Myanmar

February 2, 2021

The US and others in the international community have swiftly and sharply condemned the military coup in Myanmar, but it remains to be seen what action the UN Security Council will take.

A small group of Nepalese Civil society activists hold placards reacting to the developments in Myanmar
Activists in Nepal took part in a protest against the coup in MyanmarImage: Niranjan Shrestha/AP Photo/picture alliance

The UN Security Council is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss developments and a potential international response to the military coup in Myanmar.

The military seized power in early morning raids on Monday, detaining members of Myanmar's government, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN envoy for the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council for February, said she hopes to hold "as constructive a discussion as possible."

The Council will "look at a range of measures, with the idea of respecting the people's will expressed in the vote and releasing civil society leaders," Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters.

"We'll want to consider measures that will move us towards that end," Woodward said, while adding that no specific measures are currently being discussed at this time.

Banks reopen

Meanwhile, banks in the commercial hub of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, reopened on Tuesday after halting financial services a day earlier due to poor internet connections following the coup.

The Myanmar bankers' association had released a statement saying it would allow its members to reopen their doors as of Tuesday.

Myanmar's National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) held a meeting on Monday at the President House to discuss the ongoing situation.

UN: International community must respond

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, told DW that the international community had to act "in a language that the Myanmar junta will understand."

"And we know from experience they understand the language of economic sanctions," Andrews said. "You don't overthrow a fledgling democracy. You don't assault an entire people with a military coup." 

"What we have in Myanmar is a very systematic lock up of people that believe in democracy, that have been advancing human rights. Government leaders from Aung San Suu Kyi and many of her colleagues in these predawn raids, the cut-off of communications yesterday [on Sunday] throughout the country, the lock up of leaders who could be mounting opposition on the streets. So this is a true coup d'etat. They have this country locked down," the UN special rapporteur said. 

How has the US responded?

US President Joe Biden threatened on Monday to impose new sanctions against Myanmar, joining a chorus of world leaders who have condemned the coup.

Biden criticized the actions of the army as a "direct assault on the country's transition to democracy and rule of law."

"The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action. The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack," he said.

What to watch for in the UN Security Council meeting

It remains to be seen how Council members China and Russia will act in the meeting.

The two world powers largely shielded Myanmar from significant action from the Council following the 2017 military crackdown that caused over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

Russia and China both hold veto powers on the Council, along with France, the UK and the US.

China has so far declined to criticize the coup and has instead called on all sides to "resolve differences." The official Xinhua news agency described the military replacing elected ministers after the takeover as a "major cabinet reshuffle."

What happened in Myanmar?

Myanmar's army seized power of the country in a bloodless coup, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected civilian leaders.

The military also imposed a one-year state of emergency, sparking international outrage.

Generals justified the coup by alleging fraud in the country's November elections that saw Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party win in a landslide.

The military action happened just hours before the newly-elected parliament was due to convene.

The United Nations and others have called on the military to respect the results of the election, saying the arrests of Suu Kyi and other leaders was of "grave concern."

rs, jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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