UN Security Council Should Act on Myanmar Atrocities

One Year After Coup, Global Arms Embargo Urgently Needed


By Louis Charbonneau


Anti-coup protesters run from teargas deployed by the police during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, March 1, 2021. © 2021 Sipa USA via AP Images


United Nations Security Council member countries should abandon their timid approach to the Myanmar military’s mounting atrocities and replace mealymouthed statements with tough action.

A year ago, on February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military ousted the democratically elected civilian government, jailed many politicians, and unleashed a wave of violence against protesters opposing the coup, killing nearly 1,500. Renewed attacks on ethnic minority areas have resulted in numerous war crimes.

Three-and-a-half years earlier, the same military launched a campaign of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims including murder, rape, torture, and the widespread burning of villages. A UN-backed investigation said the attacks against the Rohingya may amount to genocide.

Between the 2017 campaign against the Rohingya and the 2021 coup, the Security Council did little more than issue a handful of statements on Myanmar, failing to put forth a single resolution. This approach surely gave Myanmar’s military confidence that any new wave of repression would largely be met with silence.

Calls for the Security Council to hold a public meeting to discuss the violence since last year’s coup have gone unheeded, as has a campaign by dozens of organizations urging the council to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar and targeted sanctions on the junta leaders and military companies.

The United States, Britain, and the European Union have issued unilateral sanctions on Myanmar. But none has presented a draft resolution for the Security Council to negotiate. Why? Fears of a Chinese and Russian veto.

But a veto threat hasn’t stopped them before. Russia, usually backed by China, has vetoed 16 resolutions regarding Syria’s armed conflict since 2011. US and EU persistence has sent a strong message that the international community is determined to hold parties to the conflict accountable for serious abuses.

In June, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all governments to suspend arms transfers to Myanmar.

A Security Council resolution imposing a legally binding UN arms embargo is urgently needed.

If Russia and China want to side with Myanmar’s murderous military against the country’s people, nothing can stop them. But Security Council action is long overdue.



© 2022 Human Rights Watch

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