UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Members of the U.N. Security Council – minus China and Russia – condemned the “unrelenting violence” and killing of civilians in Myanmar and again urged its military rulers to stop attacks, release ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and respect human rights.
Thirteen of the 15 council members on Wednesday backed a joint statement that said there had been “insufficient progress” on implementing the first-ever Security Council resolution on Myanmar that was adopted last December. In that 12-0 vote, China and Russia, which have ties to the military that seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected civilian government in February 2021, abstained along with India whose two-year term on the council has ended.
Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador James Kariuki read the statement, flanked by diplomats from the other countries, after the council was briefed at a closed meeting by U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths on his recent visit to Myanmar and by Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari on efforts to resolve the crisis.
The statement reiterates demands from the December 2022 council resolution that still require implementation: the immediate release of all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners including ousted leader Suu Kyi and president Win Myint, restoring democratic institutions, respecting human rights and “the democratic will of the people,” and upholding the rule of law.
It also calls for the full implementation of the plan by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that Myanmar’s rulers agreed to in April 2021 but have made little progress in fulfilling. It includes an immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all parties mediated by an ASEAN envoy who is also to visit Myanmar and meet all parties. Envoys have visited but not been allowed to meet Suu Kyi.
The 13 council members said the military’s actions have left over 18 million people in Myanmar in need of humanitarian assistance – over 15 million of them without regular access to adequate food – and 2 million people displaced.
Members also expressed ongoing concern about the plight of nearly a million Rohingya Muslims who fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar following a military crackdown in northern Rakhine state in August 27 to Bangladesh and other countries. They urged Myanmar “to address the fundamental causes of the crisis and restore the rights of Rohingya.” Almost all Rohingyas are denied citizenship and their movements are restricted.
At the council meeting, diplomats discussed a report this month by U.N. independent investigators who said Myanmar’s military and affiliated militias are committing increasingly frequent and brazen war crimes.
The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, established in 2018 by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, said it also found strong evidence during the year ending in June of the indiscriminate and disproportionate targeting of civilians with bombs, mass executions of people detained during military operations, and large-scale burning of civilian houses.
Nicholas Koumjian, head of the investigative group, said: “Our evidence points to a dramatic increase in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country, with widespread and systematic attacks against civilians, and we are building case files that can be used by courts to hold individual perpetrators responsible.”
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield cited the group’s report in a statement saying “the regime’s horrific atrocities must stop.”
Myanmar’s U.N.-accredited ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, who represented the Suu Kyi government, urged the council to adopt a resolution banning the supply of weapons, jet fuel, and financial flows to the military.
The United States also announced sanctions Wednesday against two individuals and three organizations involved in the procurement and distribution of jet fuel to Myanmar’s military which is increasingly using airstrikes against pro-democracy forces, killing and displacing civilians.
The new measures were set by the Treasury Department which said the sanctions targeted Khin Phyu Win and Zaw Min Tun, as well as Shoon Energy PTE. LTD., PEIA PTE. LTD., and P.E.I Energy PTE. LTD., three Singapore-based holding companies related to them to disrupt the military’s access to jet fuel resources.
The sanctions block any assets of the sanctioned entities that are in the U.S, or controlled by a U.S. person. It also prohibits all transactions by U.S. persons or carried out within or transiting the United States that the targeted entities would benefit from.
A Treasury Department statement said the military has increasingly relied on “violent airstrikes” to repress the civilians, citing the two recent strikes in the Sagaing region in April and June in which at least 90 people were killed. The statement said over 3,900 civilians were estimated to have been killed by the military since the takeover.
“By expanding the use of our sanctions authority to target an additional sector critical to the military regime, we are able to further deprive the regime of the resources that enable it to oppress its citizens,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.
Wednesday’s were the latest in a series of penalties imposed by the U.S. over the military takeover.
In June, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s Defense Ministry and two state-owned banks, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank to make it difficult to carry out transactions through financial institutions involving U.S. dollars.
The military-controlled government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, initially declared that Myanmar would not face any losses of currency. But, Maung Maung Win, a deputy-minister of planning and finance told the reporters in Naypyitaw on Tuesday the sanctions on two Myanmar banks have caused damages to the export and import sectors, among other sectors.