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Nearly 140 NGOs call on UN Security Council to impose arms embargo on Myanmar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A supporter of the military throws projectiles at residents in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 25, 2021, following weeks of mass demonstrations against a military coup. (Photo by AFP)

Nearly 140 NGOs from 31 countries have called on the United Nations Security Council to urgently institute a coordinated, global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the recent military coup in the country.

"The United Nations Security Council should urgently impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the military coup and to deter the junta from committing further abuses," the organizations said in an open letter signed on Wednesday.

The signatories, which also included dozens of Asian NGOs, expressed grave concern about an intensified crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar in recent weeks, urging the governments that permit arms transfers to the Southeast Asian country to "immediately stop the supply of any weapons, munitions, and related equipment."

"The Security Council should also impose targeted sanctions, global travel bans, and asset freezes on the leadership of the junta and military-owned conglomerates," the letter said.

In the Wednesday letter, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth also wrote, "Given the mass atrocities against the Rohingya, decades of war crimes, and the overthrow of the elected government, the least the UN Security Council can do is impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar."

The Myanmarese military, which has imposed a state of emergency for one year, ousted the government on February 1 and arrested de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her top political allies over accusations of voter fraud in favor of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party in the November 2020 elections.

The military placed commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing in power.

Protests have engulfed the country since, despite a junta promise to hold fresh elections in a year and hand over power to the winner. At least four demonstrators have been killed so far. This week, the nation has seen huge rallies and a general strike.

Myanmar students, doctors plan more protests against coup

Meanwhile, students and doctors in Myanmar have planned to hold fresh protests against the coup.

Students have pledged to rally in the largest city of Yangon on Thursday, and demonstrators are urged to bring textbooks promoting military education so they can destroy them at the protest.

Doctors are also due to hold a protest on the same day as part of a so-called "white coat revolution," while many professionals and government workers have joined the civil disobedience movement against the coup.

Protesters have over the past weeks been demanding the restoration of the elected government and the release of Suu Kyi and other political leaders.

The junta has come under pressure by the international community to hand over power to civilians and release the officials, but it has defied the calls, deploying armored vehicles and soldiers in some major cities to crack down on protests.

A rights group has said that as of Wednesday, 728 people were arrested, charged, or sentenced in relation to the protests.

The latest development comes amid diplomatic efforts by Indonesia to resolve the deepening crisis triggered by the putsch in Myanmar. Both countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met Myanmar's military-appointed foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, for talks in neighboring Thailand on Wednesday.

Retno stressed that the wellbeing of the people of Myanmar was the top priority, after her talks with the Myanmar minister and her Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, in the capital, Bangkok.

"We ask for everybody to use restraint and not resort to violence... to avoid casualties and bloodshed," she said, and emphasized "the importance of an inclusive democratic transition process."

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Thai Embassy in Yangon on Wednesday with signs that read "Respect our vote" and "We voted NLD."

The crisis has restored Myanmar's reputation as the problematic member of the 10-nation ASEAN, and the diplomatic scramble by its neighbors comes as wider international concern is growing.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on Myanmarese military officials, and the European Union (EU) has demanded a return to civilian rule.

Myanmar was ruled by the military until 2011, when Suu Kyi ended the junta rule and introduced what were presented as reforms. She had been under house arrest before.

Her party, however, cultivated close relations with the military from the beginning of its activity and formed an alliance with senior military officers.

She supported the military in a deadly campaign of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim community in the western state of Rakhine. Suu Kyi also defended military atrocities against the Rohingya people at the UN's top court in The Hague in December 2019.

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