Myanmar army's pick as UN envoy resigns in diplomatic power struggle

Kyaw Moe Tun flashes the three-finger salute, a symbol of anti-junta resistance borrowed from The Hunger Games films, at the end of a speech pleading for international action in overturning the military coup. PHOTO: NYTIMES

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES (AFP) - Myanmar's newly-appointed ambassador to the United Nations has resigned, saying that his predecessor - who was fired by the military junta - continues to represent the country, a UN spokesman said on Thursday (March 4), the latest twist in a diplomatic row.

The military, which ousted Myanmar's civilian leaders and seized power in the South-east Asian nation on Feb 1, had fired Kyaw Moe Tun on Saturday, a day after he spectacularly broke with the junta and pleaded with the General Assembly for help to restore democracy.

The generals appointed his deputy, Tin Maung Naing, in his place.

But on Thursday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Myanmar's mission had sent a communication informing the body that Tin Maung Naing "has submitted his letter of resignation... recalling that Mr Kyaw Moe Tun remains the permanent representative of Myanmar to the United Nations."

The move came after a stand-off which saw Kyaw Moe Tun write to the president of the UN General Assembly on Monday to insist the coup was "unlawful" and therefore the military had no authority to remove him.

"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, claiming Kyaw Moe Tun had been removed.

That day, Dujarric said the UN was taking a look at the two "contradictory" letters, as the body stressed the unusual nature of the situation and said UN accreditation and protocol committees would look into the issue.

They could ultimately refer it to the General Assembly for a simple majority vote.

The decision is far-reaching because it means whether or not to recognise who wields power in Myanmar.

Since Tuesday, Kyaw Moe Tun has held meetings with his counterpart from the European Union and the representative of the United States, who reiterated their support.

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