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In first resolution on Myanmar in decades, UN Security Council urges release of political prisoners

A general view shows a United Nations Security Council meeting during a vote on a draft resolution on Myanmar, at the UN headquarters in New York, on December 22, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations Security Council has called on Myanmar's military rulers to end violence and release all political prisoners, in its first ever resolution on the country in more than seven decades.

The 15-member Council voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday, urging the junta to "immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners," including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Permanent members China and Russia abstained from the vote, along with India.

"Today we've sent a firm message to the military that they should be in no doubt – we expect this resolution to be implemented in full," the United Kingdom's UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said after the vote.

"We've also sent a clear message to the people of Myanmar that we seek progress in line with their rights, their wishes and their interests," Woodward said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the resolution sent a "strong message" from the world that the junta "must end its violence across the country" and free prisoners.

"While we applaud the adoption of this resolution, the Council still has much more work to do to advance a just solution to the crisis," Blinken said.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military seized control in a coup on February 1, 2021. The UN estimates that some 14,000 people have been arrested and at least 2,000 killed since then.

The only other resolution adopted bu the Security Council concerning Myanmar was one adopted in 1948, when the Council recommended the country's entry into the world body.

In 2008, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution on Myanmar after both China and Russia cast vetoes.

Then, in December 2018, Britain made another attempt following the violence against Rohingya Muslims, but a vote was never held.

Myanmarese military forces were involved in a campaign of genocide against the Muslim Rohingya that started in 2017 during the rule of Suu Kyi. The military has been accused of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and other minority groups in the country. The crisis saw 700,000 people flee Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh.

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