Up to 488 international civil society organizations have just issued a joint statement expressing their disappointment at the UN Security Council’s lack of decisive action against the Myanmar military coup and the killings carried out by the Myanmar army. At the same time, this group condemned Vietnam, China, Russia, and India for preventing the UN Security Council from passing a statement condemning the Myanmar army.
The joint statement dated March 16 by group 488 of civil society organizations from many countries around the world wrote: “We are extremely disappointed that the UN Security Council cannot make strong statement due to disagreement from China, Russian, Indian and Vietnam. Sadly, this shows the inability of the UN Security Council to take any meaningful action.”
The UN Security Council on March 10 did not reach a consensus to issue a statement condemning the military coup in Myanmar in early February.
The reason is that China, Russia, India, and Vietnam on the evening of March 10 proposed to amend the draft statement prepared by the UK, requested not to mention the coup, and withdrew the threat of taking the strong measures against the military regime.
Ms. Wai Wai Nu, founder of Women’s Peace Network, and former Mynamar political prisoner currently living in the US, told VOA her organization is a signatory party of the joint statement. She said that economic and geopolitical interests were the main reason why Hanoi, Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi were preventing the UN Security Council’s move:
“Both China, India, Russia, and Vietnam have longstanding ties with Myanmar and they have relations in many aspects including the economy.”
“Russia is selling weapons to Myanmar and China is essentially controlling Myanmar’s economy; major investments in Myanmar are also from China, Vietnam, and India. Therefore, they have a very close relationship with commercial interests as well as other geopolitical interests in Myanmar.”
Vietnam, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is a major investor in Myanmar. There are more than 200 Vietnamese businesses doing business in Myanmar, according to Nikkei Asia, among these are big corporations such as Viettel, Vietnam Airlines, Hoang Anh Gia Lai, BIDV bank … with total investment of more than $2.2 billion according to 2019 figures.
On March 18, Mr. Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the BBC: “Vietnam has a very close relationship with the Myanmar military. In fact, a joint venture has been established. That is the Mytel mobile phone network between the Myanmar military company and Viettel owned by Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense.
The $2 billion Mytel joint venture was established in 2016, and currently Viettel holds a 49% stake. According to the Vietnam People’s Army newspaper, Mytel has made a profit of $20 million from the first quarter of 2020 after reaching more than 10 million subscribers.
A report by Justice for Myanmar, a movement to report systematic oppression and human rights abuses in the country, on December 20, 2020, details the involvement of Viettel and other international companies in the Myanmar telecommunications sector. The report states that “the established commercial partnership between these foreign businesses and Mytel shows that they are complicit in the abusive behavior of the Myanmar military.”
“Viettel Group officials operate and maintain secret military infrastructure, transfer military technology and dual-use, and operate in Myanmar military bases that the civilian government does not allow access,” writes the Justice for Myanmar page.
“By doing so, Viettel and the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense are contributing to military activities in Myanmar’s ethnic areas and supporting and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Justice for Myanmar said.
Statement by 488 civil society organizations condemning Vietnam, China, Russia, and India prevented the UN from heavily criticizing the Myanmar army.
On March 10, HRW’s Phil Robertson wrote on Twitter: “Burmese should know that when the UN Security Council fails to take action in connection with the Myanmar military coup – there are the bad guys named Russia, China, India, and Vietnam preventing the UN from taking any action.”
Last month, the UN Security Council released a press release expressing concern about a military-issued emergency, and urged the military to release those arrested, but did not condemn the coup due to the opposition from Russia and China.
According to the International Crisis Group, China has significant economic and geopolitical interests in Myanmar. China has long been Myanmar’s most important foreign partner, and Myanmar sees China “as a major source of investment, diplomatic protection, and potential leverage for the national armed groups fighting the country’s army.”
According to a campaign group called the Association to Support Political Prisoners, at least 217 protesters have been killed and 2,655 have been arrested since the February 1 coup.
According to human rights groups, the Myanmar military forces telecom corporations, including Mytel, lowered Internet access during the coup, and to turn off access to websites and other locations as well as various social media, including Facebook.
Critics say these technological capabilities, including those transferred from Viettel, have given the Burmese military sweeping power to monitor civilians and coordinate actions against protesters.