NEW YORK - The international community sent a strong signal Friday to Myanmar's military, condemning its seizure of the civilian government and its monthslong violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
In a resolution adopted in the U.N. General Assembly by a vote of 119-1, with Belarus the only country voting against and 36 abstentions, member states called for an end to the violence and for respect of the will of the people as expressed in the November election. They called for the return to the democratic path, the release of political detainees and the end of the state of emergency imposed after the February 1 coup.
While the legal power to impose an international arms embargo lies only with the Security Council, the resolution does call on "all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar."
Myanmar's ambassador, who is aligned with the national unity government, welcomed the resolution, saying that he hoped it would help pressure the military to stop "their inhumane acts" but was disappointed it fell "far short of our expectations."
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said it had been more than 130 days since the coup and there was no sign the brutal military crackdown was easing. He appealed to the international community, as well as to the U.N. Security Council, to take "collective and decisive action" to ease the violence.
Nearly 900 civilian protesters have been confirmed killed and 6,000 arrested since the military seized power February 1, rejecting the outcome of the November elections that overwhelmingly gave power to the National League for Democracy party.
"The military is still operating in its own twisted reality, ignoring the international community's calls," Kyaw Moe Tun said.
The resolution also calls on the military to "immediately facilitate" a visit by U.N. Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener. She has been trying to return to the country since the coup, but the junta has repeatedly put her off.
"Time is of the essence," she told the gathering. "The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing, and the regional threat increasing."
She said that fighting had emerged in areas covered in the 2015 nationwide cease-fire agreement, and that there had been "serious confrontations" in areas with long-standing bilateral truces with the military.
"The risk of a large-scale civil war is real," she warned.
On April 24, at a summit in Indonesia, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued a five-point plan to lead the country out of the crisis. The plan included dialogue, ASEAN mediation and a halt to the hostilities. The Myanmar military has so far ignored it.
The General Assembly called on the junta to engage with ASEAN to seek a peaceful outcome to the crisis. But not all ASEAN members supported the resolution. Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand abstained.
Diplomats said the 10-member bloc preferred to support the measure in a "consensus" rather than a recorded vote. But Belarus demanded the recorded vote, and it chipped at the unity.
China, which is not an ASEAN member and is close to the Myanmar military, also abstained.
Earlier Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that the human rights abuses and killings must stop and that the conditions need to be created for democracy to be restored.
"I hope the General Assembly will be able to send a very clear message in this direction because we cannot live in a world where military coups become a norm. It is totally unacceptable," he told reporters.
European Union envoy Olof Skoog, who was part of the core group that negotiated the text, said they did succeed in sending the military a powerful message "that is the broadest and most universal condemnation of the situation in Myanmar to date."
"It (the resolution) delegitimizes the military junta, condemns its abuse and violence against its own people, and demonstrates its isolation in the eyes of the world," he said.