18 September 2006

Security Council, in Procedural Action, Votes to Include Human Rights Situation in Myanmar on Its Agenda

Members Approve Decision by 10 Votes in Favour, 4 Against, 1 Abstention

NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters) -- By a procedural vote of 10 in favour to 4 against (China, Congo, Qatar, Russian Federation) and 1 abstention (United Republic of Tanzania), the Security Council acted this afternoon to include the item "the situation in Myanmar" on its agenda, with the intention of considering it shortly after 19 September.

The action came after the representative of the United States wrote, in a letter to the President of the Council dated 15 September (document S/2006/742), that his and other delegations were concerned about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, which was likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

Recalling a December 2005 briefing by Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, he said the official had described grave human rights and humanitarian conditions in Myanmar, including the detention of more than 1,100 political prisoners, outflow of refugees, and drugs, as well as HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  As those conditions threatened to have a destabilizing impact on the region, the United States requested that the situation be placed on the Council's agenda, and that a senior Secretariat official brief Member States on the implications of that situation for international peace and security.

During this afternoon's procedural meeting -- in which no member has the right to veto -- the representative of the United States said that, since the adoption of resolution 688 (1991) on the massive flow of Iraqi refugees across the country's borders, such matters had been deemed threats to international peace and security.

China's representative, however, said that only threats to international peace and security according to the United Nations Charter warranted inclusion on the Council's agenda.  If other issues, such as human rights, were also considered for inclusion, any country facing similar issues could be inscribed on the agenda as well, which was "preposterous".  Few countries in the region thought the situation in Myanmar was a threat to peace and security and the fact that some countries from over the ocean thought otherwise was a far cry from reality.

Requesting that the Council discuss a country's internal affairs would undermine the Council's authority, he continued.  Myanmar's efforts to solve its own problems had been recognized and the situation was gradually taking a turn for the better.  The Government of Myanmar was ready to collaborate with the United Nations and turn over a new leaf, as it had extended an invitation to Mr. Gambari.  In a letter dated 10 July, the Non-Aligned Movement had expressed its opposition to the item's inclusion on the Council's agenda and, in August, the Chair of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had visited Myanmar.  China, as a permanent member of the Council from Asia and a neighbouring country, wished to see political stability, economic development and national unity in Myanmar and had assisted the country in tackling its problems incrementally.

Qatar's representative noted that Myanmar's neighbours did not consider the country's human rights situation to constitute a threat to regional peace and security and the door should be left open for the relevant organs to deal with such questions.  Including the Myanmar item on the Council's agenda was inappropriate and would close diplomatic channels to the competent international organizations in the human rights field.

The meeting began at 1:35 p.m. and was suspended at 1:55 p.m., to be continued at a date in September to be determined.

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