Burma Campaign UK today called on the UK, US and EU to urgently implement further economic sanctions and take other steps, following the failure of the UN Security Council to agree effective action or even refer to the situation in North-Western Burma in a statement yesterday. The statement is available here.
Burma Campaign UK and more than 500 other civil society organisations have been calling for a meeting of the UN Security Council to address what looks like an impending military offensive in North-Western Burma, which has echoes of the situation ahead of the military offensive against the Rohingya in 2017.
The UN Security Council met on Monday, and finally agreed a statement on Wednesday, but it contained no specific reference to the situation in North-Western Burma.
“If the UN Security Council was fulfilling its mandate, it would already have imposed an arms embargo, referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, imposed targeted economic sanctions and sanctioned the supply of aviation fuel,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director at Burma Campaign UK. “What was needed was a clear warning to the military that a new offensive in North-Western Burma would not be tolerated. What we got what was a statement that didn’t even directly refer to the situation.”
The statement by the UN Security Council once again highlights the disparity between what could be considered a diplomatic success, and the situation on the ground. British diplomats worked hard to secure the meeting and highlight the dangers of the situation in North-Western Burma. Given the strong resistance to UN Security Council intervention on Burma by Russia and China, with Russia even boycotting one recent meeting, securing a Security Council statement agreed to by Russia and China is a significant diplomatic success. However, none of the civil society organisations Burma Campaign UK has spoken with so far believe this will have any impact. This was also reflected in a joint statement responding to the UN Security Council Statement, which included Chin Human Rights Organisation, available here.
Burma Campaign UK has previously written about this dilemma in a blog: The Importance and Futility of UN Security Council Statements on Burma, available here.
Diplomats will understandably be disappointed that something they worked hard for, and which in their world is a diplomatic success, is being criticised by so many civil society and human rights organisations.
The assumption of diplomats is that a consensus statement which includes traditional allies of the military such as China and Russia will have an impact on the military. Diplomats from UN Security Council members will also feel that the language is stronger than previous statements. However, civil society organisations that Burma Campaign UK spoke with would have preferred a stronger statement by like-minded countries than a weak UN Security Council Statement. They also wanted a statement that actually reflected the situation on the ground, not toning down the seriousness of what is going on.
With the UN Security Council having failed to deliver the kind of message which could have acted as a deterrent to a new military offensive, those countries which wanted stronger action that was blocked by Russia and China, now have an obligation to coordinate further urgent action. This should include accelerating plans for new rounds of targeted economic sanctions, more public and proactive work in persuading more countries to impose arms embargoes, and sanctioning aviation fuel. The majority of the quarter of a million people displaced since the coup are the result of bombing by jets, helicopters and drones and the threat of further bombing is preventing people from returning home.
“One of the single most effective things the US and EU can do now is to stop gas revenues going to the military,” said Anna Roberts. “Gas revenue sanctions will send a strong message to the military at the same time as having a significant financial impact and weakening their ability to keep attacking civilian populations.”
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