Citing Myanmar's sovereignty, PH won't join UN resolution vs. military takeover

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — While calling for the “complete restoration” of democracy in Myanmar, the Philippine government said it puts primacy on the country’s sovereignty and distances itself from a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution deploring the military coup that ousted and detained democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“As a sovereign country in a world of sovereign states, the Philippines cannot stress strongly enough the primacy of national internal efforts towards democratic reforms, and never by the imposition of foreign solutions whether in regional or multilateral contexts, including through this Council,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released on Saturday.

“We reaffirm our support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar,” the DFA added.

The UN HRC on Friday adopted a resolution condemning the removal of Myanmar’s elected government and demanding the release of State Counsellor Suu Kyi and other “arbitrarily detained” individuals.

It also called on the Myanmar military to lift restrictions on Internet, telecommunication and social media, and take steps to protect the people’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression, religion or belief, association, and peaceful assembly.

The 47-member council requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a special rapporteur to assess the situation in Myanmar, urging the authorities there to cooperate. Findings will be discussed in the next regular session of the council which is set for February 22 to March 23.

Not a 'no' vote

The DFA said the Philippines is joining China, Russia, Venezuela and Bolovia in “dissociating itself” from the resolution, noting that it was adopted without a vote.

“The Philippine strong statement was delivered by recorded message,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. said in a tweet.

“The Philippines has been supportive of Myanmar’s progress towards a fuller democracy, cognizant of the Army’s role in preserving its territorial integrity and national security, as well as the unifying role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the history of the country and Army her father founded,” the DFA statement read.

“The Philippines will settle for nothing less than, and nothing else but the complete restoration of the status quo in which Myanmar had made so much progress,” it added.

READ: PH backs 'complete restoration' of democracy in Myanmar

The DFA stressed that dissociation does not mean a "no" vote, it just means the country's position is "not exactly the same as those who joined the consensus."

The Philippines and Myanmar

The Myanmar military seized power in a coup on February 1, sparking protests across the country. Internet and news services were limited. The military said it was taking over due to widespread voting irregularities in the November 2020 election, which gave Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party a second consecutive landslide victory.

READ: Why the generals really took back power in Myanmar

The military said it was releasing more than 23,000 prisoners on Union Day on Friday, a national public holiday observing unification of the country, but there’s no indication Suu Kyi and other officials will be among those freed, CNN reported.

Both the Philippines and Myanmar are member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is known for its policy of “non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.” This is one of the fundamental principles of the 10-member regional bloc, as stated in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia of 1976.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ human rights situation has been scrutinized in previous sessions of the UN HRC. The council in October 2020 approved “technical assistance” to the Philippines, a move that has been criticized as a soft approach compared to calls for an international, independent, and impartial investigation on the reported killings and alleged abuses in the bloody war on drugs.