The United Nations General Assembly called for a stop to the flow of arms to Myanmar and urged the military to respect the November election results and release political detainees, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The General Assembly adopted a resolution with the support of 119 countries several months after the military overthrew Suu Kyi’s elected government in a Feb 1 coup.
Belarus requested the text be put to a vote and was the only country to oppose it, while 36 abstained.
“The risk of a large-scale civil war is real,” UN special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told the General Assembly after the vote.
“Time is of the essence. The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing.”
Some countries which abstained said the crisis was an internal issue for Myanmar, others did not think the resolution would be helpful, while some states complained it did not adequately address the plight of Rohingya Muslims some four years after a military crackdown forced nearly a million to flee Myanmar.
European Union UN Ambassador Olof Skoog said the UN resolution sends a powerful message: “It delegitimises the military junta, condemns its abuse and violence against its own people and demonstrates its isolation in the eyes of the world.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had earlier on Friday pushed the General Assembly to act, telling reporters: “We cannot live in a world where military coups become a norm. It is totally unacceptable.”
The military cited the government’s refusal to address what it said was fraud in a November election as the reason for the coup. International observers have said the ballot was fair.
An initial draft UN resolution included stronger language calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar.
According to a proposal seen by Reuters last month, nine South-East Asian countries wanted that language removed.
The compromised text “calls on all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar”.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but carry political weight. Unlike the 15-member Security Council, no country has veto power in the General Assembly.
The Assembly resolution “calls on UN member states to do the obvious: stop providing weapons to Myanmar,” said Human Rights Watch.
“Months of atrocities and grave human rights abuses by the junta’s security forces have shown time and again why no government should be sending them a single bullet.
“The UN Security Council should now step up and pass its own resolution imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN Director at HRW.
The resolution is an opportunity “to show that the world stands with the people of Myanmar, and not the military” who “committed horrific acts of violence against ordinary civilians,” said British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward.
More than 860 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the coup, according to the UN and the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP).
“We must continue to call for maximum restraint and condemn all forms of violence,” Schraner Burgener stressed.
“Inclusive political dialogue is urgently needed.” — Agencies