China joins UN council criticism of Myanmar’s generals

Security Council agrees to water down censure of coup after strong words from secretary general

Residents take part in a noise campaign on a street in Yangon on February 4, 2021, after calls for protest against the military coup emerged on social media. / AFP / STR
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The UN Security Council on Thursday criticised the military coup in Myanmar in a breakthrough statement agreed to by Russia and China, which have in the past blocked censure of the South-East Asian country.

The 15-nation body expressed “deep concern” over the military’s state of emergency and called for the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained in the putsch.

The UN council first discussed the coup on Tuesday, a day after Myanmar's army locked up opponents after claims of fraud in last year's elections, and handed power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing.

The new government declared a one-year state of emergency.

In the statement, the council “stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law".

The UN body expressed “concern at the restrictions on civil society, journalists and media workers”, and said aid must continue flowing to Myanmar, while encouraging "the pursuance of dialogue and reconciliation”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday pledged to gather international pressure on Myanmar’s military “to make sure that this coup fails”. But the text avoided the word coup.

Originally drafted by Britain, which holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, the document appeared to have been toned down to win support from Moscow and Beijing, which have permanent seats on the council.

In a separate statement, a representative of China’s UN mission said its diplomats “participated in the discussions constructively” with other council members to try to improve the text.

“China hopes that all parties in Myanmar will put the aspiration and interests of the people first, properly handle differences through dialogue within the constitutional and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability,” its statement said.

Myanmar was plunged back into military rule on Monday when soldiers detained Ms Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders in dawn raids, ending the country's brief experiment with democracy.

The new military leaders on Thursday blocked access to Facebook, which was a rallying point for opposition to the coup, saying the move was for the sake of stability.

The coup sparked international condemnation and fears that the military would drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia’s poorest nations.