U.N. Security Council wrestles with threat of action over Myanmar coup

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council failed to agree on Tuesday on a statement that would have condemned the coup in Myanmar, called for restraint by the military and threatened to consider “further measures,” though diplomats said talks would likely continue.

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations flag is seen during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova

During an initial bid to finalize the text, China, Russia, India and Vietnam all suggested amendments late on Tuesday to a British draft, diplomats said, including removal of the reference to a coup and the threat to consider further action.

Such statements by the 15-member body are agreed by consensus.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a Feb. 1 coup, detained her and officials of her National League for Democracy party and set up a ruling junta of generals.

The military complained of fraud in a November election. The election commission said the vote was fair.

The Security Council issued a statement to the press last month voicing concern over the state of emergency imposed by the Myanmar military and calling for the release of all those detained, but stopped short of condemning the coup due to opposition from Russia and China.

“Every member state has a role to play individually and collectively. Collectively, we are always looking for a strong voice and strong action from the Security Council,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters earlier on Tuesday.

More than 60 people have been killed and some 1,800 people detained in a crackdown on daily protests against the coup around the southeast Asian nation, an advocacy group has said. Dozens of journalists are among those arrested.

The draft Security Council statement, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, called “on the military to exercise utmost restraint, emphasizes that it is following the situation closely, and states its readiness to consider possible further measures.”

An independent U.N. human rights investigator on Myanmar and New York-based Human Rights Watch have called on the Security Council to impose a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions on the junta.

But in an effort to preserve council unity on Myanmar, diplomats said sanctions were unlikely to be considered any time soon as such measures would probably be opposed by China and Russia, who - along with the United States, France and Britain - are council veto powers.

The draft statement, which the council began discussing after a closed briefing on Friday on the situation, strongly condemned “the use of violence against peaceful protesters.”

It also have expressed “deep concern at violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including restrictions on medical personnel, civil society, journalists and media workers, and calls for the immediate release of all those detained.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Robert Birsel