The statement continued, “The Security Council strongly condemns the violence against peaceful protestors, including against women, youth and children. It expresses deep concern at restrictions on medical personnel, civil society, labour union members, journalists and media workers, and calls for the immediate release of all those detained arbitrarily.”
“The Council calls for the military to exercise utmost restraint and emphasizes that it is following the situation closely,” it added.
At least 67 people have been killed and hundreds injured since the military took over, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General said Wednesday.
But to get their condemnation on the boards, Western countries had to give a little. UN diplomats told CNN that China, Russia, and Vietnam objected to tougher language calling events “a coup” and in one draft forced the removal of language that would have threatened further action, potentially sanctions.
“The mere fact that there is a statement at all is a minor miracle,” Richard Gowan, the International Crisis Group’s UN liaison, told CNN. “A few days ago, some council members thought it would be impossible for the West to find common ground with China on this.”
Some diplomats were pleased they got agreement on the statement and accepted the tradeoffs, at least for now. China and Russia usually refuse to let the UN get more involved in such situations, arguing that the UN was not established to interfere in the “internal affair” of member states, and that action would harm the chance for dialogue to settle things. Note to reader: The UN commemorated the tenth anniversary of the start of Syria’s civil war Wednesday.
The Council’s way is typically to try to project unity in front of international bad actors. “Today, the United States and every other member of the United Nations Security Council spoke with one voice to condemn the ongoing violence against peaceful protestors in Burma. We commend their courage and determination in the face of continued, brutal attacks by military and security forces,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, though she did call Myanmar’s plight a “coup” in a statement after the meeting.
The art of diplomacy can appear a cruel contrast to lives being lost on the ground, but Gowan says it is not ineffectual. “Of course (the Security Council statement) is weaker than most Western members would like. And it is stronger than China and Russia would prefer,” he said. “So it is mildly unsatisfactory for everyone, but it sends the generals in Myanmar a message that the UN is still watching them, and Beijing won’t give them total cover for human rights abuses.”
China’s UN Ambassador Ambassador Zhang Jun said after the statement’s approval, “Now it’s time for de-escalation. It’s time for diplomacy. It’s time for dialogue.”
Diplomats favoring strong action may now have to wait before trying again on sanctions or an arms embargo against Myanmar’s military. That would take a vote on a resolution.
And you don’t want to see that sausage being made.