The UN faces a dilemma when its General Assembly convenes next week, after Myanmar’s military junta and the country’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) launched rival bids to fill the country’s seat.
Myanmar’s military, which seized power in February, has sought to replace Burmese Ambassador to the UN Kyaw Moe Tun, an outspoken critic of the coup.
The junta and the NUG, which was set up partly by ousted politicians, are believed to have submitted applications to the UN’s credentials committee.
Anti-coup campaigners have said a decision that favors the military could further embolden the junta, which has used brutal violence against unarmed civilians and is accused of killing more than 1,000 people since February.
Leaving the seat empty, they say, could undermine chances of a political solution.
Others say that appointing an NUG representative risks isolating the military at a time when regional diplomats are pushing for a ceasefire to deliver humanitarian aid.
The junta’s rule is widely opposed by the public, which launched a civil disobedience movement after the coup, with many refusing to work under military rule.
Over the past few months, groups of civilians have taken up arms, launching guerrilla-style attacks on military targets and defending their areas from raids by security forces.
The conflict and unrest after the coup have left an estimated 176,000 people displaced within Myanmar, according to the UN, while the economy is collapsing and the health system is in crisis.
A legal opinion signed by a 11 prominent legal academics said that the NUG’s representative should be accepted, as the military has a deplorable record on human rights, has largely ignored condemnation by the UN and others, and there are “no prospects of dialogue.”
“While the NUG does not have effective territorial control over the entire territory of Myanmar, neither does the junta,” it said.
It was signed by legal experts including Richard Goldstone, the founding chief prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as Rwanda; Chris Sidoti, member of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar; Yuyun Wahyuningrum, representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights; and Sriprapha Petcharamesree, former Thai representative to the ASEAN commission.
The official criteria for approving envoys is vague, but various factors have been considered in past cases, including “effective territorial control, democratic legitimacy and respect for international human rights standards,” said the analysis, published by the Myanmar Accountability Project advocacy group.
The UN Credentials Committee could defer a decision. This could mean an empty seat, or it could allow Kyaw Moe Tun to continue on a provisional basis.
The junta announced it had fired him after his dramatic address to the General Assembly in February, where he called for the “strongest possible action from the international community.”
Last month, two Burmese citizens were arrested in New York for plotting to kill or injure Kyaw Moe Tun in an attempt to force him to step down from the post.
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