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Human Rights Organizations Call for Arms Embargo on Myanmar

Security forces in Myanmar have cracked down on peaceful protesters, activists, journalists, students, and minority groups.

In an open letter to the United Nations Security Council, 137 human rights organizations from over 30 countries demanded the council immediately impose an international arms embargo on Myanmar where the military seized power in a coup on February 1.

The groups denounced the “excessive and at times lethal force” employed by the military during ongoing civil rights violations to quell massive but peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. Security forces have cracked down on peaceful protesters, activists, journalists, students, and minority groups.

At least three protesters have been killed with many injured in clashes. Roughly 700 people have been arrested so far, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Our concerns are heightened by ongoing violations of human rights and the security forces’ history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of military rule,” the letter said, pleading with the Security Council to take action against the human rights abuses taking place in Myanmar.

Demands Made by the Groups

Presently, governments including China, India, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and Ukraine permit arms transfers to Myanmar. The human rights organizations immediately want to stop the supply or transfer of any weapons, munitions, or other military-related equipment.

The arms embargo must also include “dual-use goods such as vehicles and communications and surveillance equipment, as well as the provision of training, intelligence, and other military assistance.” Such an embargo must also be supplemented by robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, the letter said.

For decades, the Security Council’s lukewarm response to violence in Myanmar has emboldened the military to continue their outright disregard of civil rights — an approach that has culminated in the current crisis and therefore needs to change, the letter said.

Support from UN Leaders

The call to action reinforces UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s pledge to “mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails.”

UN special rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews has also criticized the violence saying, “Day after day now, the people of Myanmar, and people around the world, have watched with horror at the photos and videos of brutality emerging from the streets of Myanmar.” Along with the deputy high commissioner for human rights, Andrews has voiced support for targeted UN sanctions against military leaders. 

Citizens are hoping for increased international support. “We are happy the UN issues statements of condemnation, but we understand they are powerful and can do more,” Thurein, a 21-year-old student, told Frontier Myanmar.

Earlier this month, the Security Council had already demanded the release of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained by the military but stopped short of criticizing the coup d’état.

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