The UN Security Council called for Myanmar’s junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday as it adopted its first ever resolution on the situation in the turmoil-ridden Southeast Asian country.
The 15-member Council has been split on Myanmar for decades and was previously only able to agree on formal statements about the country, which has been under military rule since February 2021.
Wednesday’s resolution “urges” the junta to “immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners,” including Suu Kyi and ex-president Win Myint. It also demands “an immediate end to all forms of violence” and asks for “all parties to respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”
The adoption marked a moment of relative Council unity in a year in which divisions have been heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Any opportunity for the Security Council to speak with one strong, united voice on any issue and especially on Myanmar would be much welcomed,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman said ahead of the vote.
The text was adopted with 12 votes in favor. Permanent members China and Russia abstained, opting not to wield vetoes following amendments to the wording. India also abstained.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the resolution sent a “strong message” from the world that the junta “must end its violence across the country” and free prisoners.
“While we applaud the adoption of this resolution, the Council still has much more work to do to advance a just solution to the crisis,” Blinken said, calling for greater efforts to restore democracy.
Diplomats said the only existing Council resolution regarding Myanmar was the one the UN passed in 1948 approving the country’s membership to the world body.
In 2008, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution on Myanmar after Beijing and Moscow cast vetoes.
Then in December 2018, Britain made another attempt following the Rohingya crisis that saw 700,000 people flee Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh but a vote was never held.
Britain began circulating a draft text of Wednesday’s resolution in September. Several amendments were made to ensure its passing, UN watchers say.
Language relating to the Council’s determination to use all its powers should Myanmar fail to adhere to the resolution were reportedly dropped.
Several members also objected to a provision requesting the UN secretary-general to report to the Council on the situation in Myanmar every 60 days.
Instead, the resolution calls for the secretary-general or his envoy to report back by March 15, 2023 in coordination with ASEAN.
The Council had issued one unified statement on Myanmar since the coup ended the country’s brief period of democracy.
The military alleged widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 election, won resoundingly by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, although international observers said the poll was largely free and fair.
A junta court has found Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, guilty on every one of the 14 charges it has heard so far, including corruption, and jailed her for 26 years
The military’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has killed more than 2,500 people, according to a local monitoring group.