Row over who represents coup-hit Myanmar at UN

UNITED NATIONS: Myanmar’s military government and the envoy sent by its toppled civilian government have launched contradictory claims over who represents the country at the United Nations, officials said on Tuesday (Mar 2).

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun spectacularly broke with the junta before the General Assembly on Friday in an emotional plea for help to restore ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The next day the military government said the envoy had been sacked, but on Monday Kyaw Moe Tun sent a letter to the president of the UN General Assembly to say that he still holds the post.

“The perpetrators of the unlawful coup … have no authority to countermand the legitimate authority of the president of my country,” said the letter obtained by AFP, referring to Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I wish therefore to confirm to you that I remain Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations,” he added.

On Tuesday, Myanmar’s foreign ministry sent a note verbale to the UN, also obtained by AFP, claiming Kyaw Moe Tun had been removed.

“The ministry of foreign affairs … has the honour to inform that the state administration council of the republic of the Union of Myanmar terminated the duties and responsibilities of ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun,” the note said.

“At present, Tin Maung Naing, deputy permanent representative ambassador, has been assigned as the charge d’affaires ad interim of the permanent mission,” the note added.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing that the body had received the two “contradictory” letters.

“We are taking a look at those letters, where they came from and what we will do,” he said.

“Let’s be honest here: We’re in a very unique situation we have not seen in a long time. We are trying to sort through all the legal protocol and other implications.”

UN accreditation and protocol committees will look into the issue and then refer it to the General Assembly.

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Dujarric said that the UN envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who is currently in Switzerland, “continues her conversations with various parties regarding the current situation”.

On Friday, Burgener said that “it is important the international community does not lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime”, and called for the international community to press for a return to democracy.

MYANMAR’S LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT

According to the General Assembly rules of procedure, credentials must be issued by either a head of state or government, or a foreign minister. The communication sent to Guterres’ office on Tuesday was on Myanmar Foreign Ministry letterhead, but as a note verbale, it was unsigned.

Kyaw Moe Tun noted in his letter that President Win Myint and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi appointed him last year and they remain lawfully elected to their roles.

Myanmar

Myanmar’s top diplomat briefed other foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Mar 2, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Dujarric said the UN has not received any official notification of any change to Myanmar’s government since the Feb 1 coup.

Elected lawmakers ousted in the coup have formed a committee and Kyaw Moe Tun told the General Assembly on Friday that is the “legitimate and duly elected government of Myanmar and must be recognised by the international community as such”.

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The UN has previously had to address competing claims for representation at the world body.

In September 2011, the General Assembly approved a Libyan request to accredit envoys of the country’s interim government. The move came after the US, Russia, China and European nations had all recognised the new authorities.

As the US hosts UN headquarters in New York City, Kyaw Moe Tun also asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “continue to support my work with the immunities customary to this role”.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield met virtually with Kyaw Moe Tun on Tuesday.

She commended him “for his courageous and compassionate statement” to the UN General Assembly on Friday and “expressed the United States’ support for the people of Burma and the restoration of the democratically elected government”, the US mission to the UN said in a statement.

The 15-member UN Security Council is due to discuss Myanmar in a closed meeting later this week, diplomats said. The council has voiced concern over the state of emergency, but stopped short of condemning the coup last month due to opposition by Russia and China.

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