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UN Security Council condemns military takeover in Myanmar

A soldier stands guard in Naypyitaw, Myanmar after the coup on Monday morning. (Credit: Keystone/EPA/Maung Lonlan)

The UN body has issued a statement condemning the military’s actions but avoided calling it a “coup”.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) have condemned the military takeover in Myanmar and called for the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all others arrested during the coup on Monday.

Following a delay caused by members China and Russia refusing to support an initial statement presented by the UK on Tuesday, the UNSC eventually issued a statement expressing support for the country's “democratic transition” and stressing “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. ”

“The members of the Security Council emphasises the need for the continued support of the democratic transition in Myanmar,” the council said in the statement released on Thursday evening, which refrained from using the word “coup”.

The council also expressed concern “at the restrictions on civil society, journalists and media workers” and encouraged “dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”

The move came after China - one of the five permanent council members to hold a veto - and Russia asked for more time to consider the statement put forward in an emergency meeting held on Tuesday morning. The delay drew criticism from human rights groups and campaigners around the world, who accused the council of failing to hold Myanmar accountable for its abuses of rights and the rule of law.

While the statement has been hailed as a step in the right direction, it is unlikely the unified words will be reflected in the actions of different states. As countries such as the United States threaten to impose additional sanctions on Myanmar's military, China and Russia are unlikely to intervene.

The statement comes amid reports of a growing civil disobedience movement in the country, with teachers and students taking to the streets of Yangon on Friday afternoon to protest against the military and call for the release of leader Suu Kyi.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 147 people have been detained since the coup on Monday, including 133 officials or lawmakers and 14 civil society activists. At least three more people were arrested in Mandalay after holding protests.

Ms Suu Kyi is believed to be under house arrest and has not been seen in public since Monday.