Myanmar’s UN Envoy Skips Address Amid US-China Brokered Deal With Junta

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Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from addressing the General Assembly on Monday as part of a U.S.-China-brokered deal that will see him maintain a “low profile” until a U.N. decision on who will represent the country expected later this year, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Over the weekend, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told RFA’s Myanmar Service that current U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun had withdrawn from his speaker slot at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday, the final day of the gathering.

“The only information that I have is that Myanmar is not inscribed on the speakers list,” Dujarric said at the time, referring further questions to the ambassador.

Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s since-deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) government, confirmed to Reuters news agency that he would not be speaking at the General Assembly, without providing a reason.

When pressed, he told the outlet that he was aware of an understanding between the nine members of the U.N. credentials committee, which include Russia, China and the U.S., although he did not elaborate.

On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup, alleging that the NLD engineered a landslide victory in the November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,136 people and arresting 6,850 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Russia and China have thrown their support behind the junta, while the U.S. has imposed sanctions on the military leadership over its violent response to those who oppose its rule.

The junta appointed military veteran Aung Thurein as its ambassador to the U.N., while Kyaw Moe Tun has asked that he have his accreditation renewed, despite reports that he was the target of a plot to kill or injure him because of his opposition to the coup.

The U.N. credentials committee traditionally meets in October or November and is expected to rule on who will represent Myanmar at that time.

Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service on Monday, Naing Swe Oo, executive director of the pro-military think-tank Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, said that Aung Thurein should be recognized as ambassador, given the junta’s control of the country’s executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.

He said Kyaw Moe Tun had been prevented from speaking at the UNGA “because of the informal agreement between China and the U.S.”

“All in all, I think this is a victory for the [junta] because only the representative of a government body who can officially represent the country is allowed to speak at UNGA, whether it is democratic, communist or authoritarian,” he said

“There is no reason the U.N. should recognize representatives other than those of [the junta].”

Delaying a decision

Richard Gowan, U.N. Director at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that under the U.S.-China-brokered deal, Kyaw Moe Tun had agreed to “take a low profile” until a formal decision is made later this year on who will represent Myanmar at the U.N.

“That means that the U.S. is happy because the military is not sitting at the U.N. gaining formal recognition, but also China is happy because their position is not going to come under criticism,” he said.

“It would be embarrassing for China if … you had the ambassador using the opportunity of the U.N. General Assembly to attack Beijing’s support for the military rulers in Myanmar. And secondly, it would be possible for the General Assembly to take a vote on who should represent Myanmar … [and] there is a chance that the military representatives would lose.”

Gowan told RFA he believes that both sides were willing to accept a delay and expects that the discussion will resume in November.

“Now we don’t know what the credentials committee will do at that point, and we’re all waiting very cautiously,” he said.

“But getting into the General Assembly is just one thing, right? It doesn’t it’s not necessarily mean being recognized as a government.”

Gowan suggested that leaders in Washington and other Western capitals are concerned about fully endorsing the NUG, which on Sept. 7 declared a nationwide state of emergency and called for open rebellion against junta rule, prompting an escalation of attacks on military targets by various allied pro-democracy militias and ethnic armed groups.

“I think that Western officials don’t want to be seen to actually be endorsing more violence in Myanmar,” he said.

Attempts by RFA to reach Kyaw Moe Tun and military junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered Monday.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.