Battle for Myanmar’s Diplomatic Recognition Underway at UN

Committee to decide fate of Myanmar’s seat . . .

As the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opens today, all eyes will be on the credentials committee that will decide who will represent Myanmar. More than 350 Myanmar and international civil society organizations as well as legal experts have urged the UN to retain the current representative ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military junta. The groups argue that allowing the military to sit at the UN would legitimize the junta and undermine any prospects for peace and democracy in the embattled country.

A U.S.-China convergence?

Ahead of the UNGA, reports emerged of a United States-China agreement to prevent representatives of the military from addressing the international body, which could delay a decision on Myanmar’s diplomatic status by bumping the credential committees’ discussions until November. Washington has strongly condemned the coup, while Beijing has hedged its bets by engaging with both the junta and the ousted National League Democracy (NLD), which claimed a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 elections. Both have expressed a desire for stability in Myanmar and the need to end the violence. While some see the alignment of the two superpowers’ interests as a rare sign of co-operation, others believe that merely deferring a tough decision does not bring the crisis any closer to a resolution.

Limited options on the ground . . .

Representatives of the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s parallel government comprising ousted lawmakers and representatives of ethnic minority groups, stated ahead of the UNGA meeting that despite its appreciation for various international efforts, the international community cannot be relied upon to support the pro-democracy movement and ensure the well-being of people in Myanmar given some states’ continued support for the military and their failure to invite NUG representatives to international meetings, notably the ASEAN special summit last April. Last week, the NUG launched a ‘defensive war,’ and has previously rejected holding talks with the junta, which continues to attack civilians. A shift towards armed resistance over dialogue further complicates international action, including safe access to humanitarian aid that continues to be controlled by the junta.