United Nations blocks Myanmar military taking UN seat

Rights groups say the National Unity Government, made up of elected members, must be allowed to represent Myanmar at all UN bodies.

A top United Nations committee has again blocked Myanmar’s military, which grabbed power in a February 2021 coup, from taking the country’s seat at the UN, according to diplomats and Myanmar rights groups.

The body’s General Assembly’s credentials committee deferred action on the military’s request to take over the seat, two diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press news agency.

The Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) said in a statement it had also learned from diplomats that the committee, which began meeting on November 29, had rejected the generals’ bid for representation.

MAP Director Chris Gunness said the action was an “important move which has great diplomatic and symbolic significance, at a time when the illegal coup leaders are attempting to gain international recognition”.

A formal announcement is expected on Friday.

The decision means that Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed Myanmar’s UN ambassador by the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, will continue to hold the post.

The UN’s Credentials Committee is made up of nine member states including China, Russia and the United States, and was meeting against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions over the war in Ukraine, which had raised concerns an increasingly isolated Russia might block any decision backing Kyaw Moe Tun.

The military, which has forged a deepening relationship with Moscow, was pushing for its candidate to take over from Kyaw Moe Tun, who is backed by the National Unity Government (NUG), established by Myanmar politicians who were removed from office in the generals’ February 2021 coup.

MAP said the UN now needed to ensure Kyaw Moe Tun was given “all rights and privileges” relating to his status as ambassador and that the NUG represent the country in all UN bodies.

There were “glaring inconsistencies”, MAP noted, with the NUG in the General Assembly, the military’s representatives at the International Court of Justice where Myanmar faces a genocide trial over its treatment of the mostly Muslim Rohingya, and an empty seat at the UN Human Rights Council.

“This latest move must pave the way to resolving these anomalies which are depriving 55 million people in Myanmar of the opportunity to be represented at the UN by the government which they elected by a landslide in 2020,” said MAP’s protection director, Damian Lilly.

Kyaw Moe Tun voted this year to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and suspend Russia’s membership at the UN Human Rights Council.

The coup plunged Myanmar into crisis as mass protests developed into armed resistance amid a brutal military crackdown on those opposed to its takeover.

Some 2,589 people have been killed since the coup, according to the civil society group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been monitoring the situation. In July, the military hanged four pro-democracy activists and politicians in the first use of the death penalty in Myanmar since the 1980s.

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on the day of the coup and has since faced a number of trials in closed military courts. She has already been given sentences totalling some 26 years in prison and still faces more charges.

Kyaw Moe Tun was the target of an assassination attempt a few months after the coup. The US arrested two Myanmar citizens over the plot.

Source: Al Jazeera