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UN call for halt to arms sales to Myanmar in response to violence against protesters

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By Mark Armstrong with AFP, AP
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Protesters carried photos of ousted leader Suu Kyi
Protesters carried photos of ousted leader Suu Kyi   -   Copyright  AFP
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Dozens of anti-coup protesters disrupted traffic in Yangon, Myanmar calling for the release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Crowds gathered in Mayangon Township to mark Suu Kyi's 76th birthday while she remains under house arrest, and ahead of her next court appearance next week.

It came after the UN voted on Friday for a rare call to halt arms sales to Myanmar in response to the violent military coup that began in February 2021.

"The risk of a large-scale civil war is real," said Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN's Special Envoy to Myanmar. "Time is of the essence. The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing and the regional threat increasing."

The resolution was supported by 119 countries, with Belarus the only one to vote against it. Another 36 countries abstained, including Russia and China, the Myanmar military's two biggest arms suppliers.

Myanmar has been steeped in chaos since the military first staged the coup on February 1, pushing the country's democratically-elected leaders out of power.

Security forces brutally clamped down on the ensuing pro-democracy demonstrations, with more than 1,700 people arrested in the first month after the coup.

Some of the civilian protesters are now being trained up by ethnic armed groups that have been fighting the military government ever since the country became independent from Britain in 1948.

The UN has also called for the release of political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and an end to violence against peaceful protesters. While not legally binding, the resolution carries political weight.