Intrigue deepens at UN over Myanmar and Afghanistan

The right to speak on behalf of a country at the UN is an important barometer of its government's international legitimacy and acceptance.
The right to speak on behalf of a country at the UN is an important barometer of its government's international legitimacy and acceptance.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (NYTIMES) - No official representing Myanmar will speak on Monday (Sept 27), the final day of the United Nations General Assembly plenary, UN officials said, in an apparent eleventh-hour compromise that would deny a global platform to the country's warring democratic and militarist factions.

Myanmar's credentialed UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, was scheduled to speak on Monday. Kyaw Moe Tun was appointed by the government that was toppled by a coup in February. He has since publicly assailed the junta that now governs the country, but which is not widely recognised by the international community.

Myanmar was previously included on a roster of speakers. But Stéphane Dujarric, the chief UN spokesperson, said in an e-mail on Saturday that "Myanmar is not on the speakers list".

Kyaw Moe Tun did not respond to requests for comment. But he told Reuters that he had withdrawn from the list.

Myanmar, one of 193 UN member states, no longer appears on the lineup of country representatives who have yet to speak at the annual meeting.

Reuters also reported that unidentified members of the General Assembly Credentials Committee, a group that includes China, Russia and the United States, had reached an understanding under which Kyaw Moe Tun would be permitted to keep his UN seat for the time being as long as he did not speak.

Diplomats from countries represented on the committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The United States has denounced the junta and defended Kyaw Moe Tun's right to represent Myanmar. China and Russia are significant weapons suppliers to Myanmar's armed forces and have been far less critical of the February coup.

The Credentials Committee has yet to deliberate formally on the credentials applications submitted by Myanmar's junta and the Taliban militants now controlling Afghanistan, which is also represented at the world body by an ambassador from a toppled government. That envoy, Ghulam Isaczai, was still listed to speak as of Sunday, a prospect that could anger the Taliban.

The right to speak on behalf of a country at the UN is an important barometer of its government's international legitimacy and acceptance.

If the junta successfully ousted Kyaw Moe Tun in favour of its own envoy, that would represent a significant public relations victory for the ruling generals and a setback for the former civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate imprisoned by the military since the coup on nebulous charges.

Up until now, at least, Kyaw Moe Tun has been an active advocate of his country's toppled government at the UN.

Last week, for example, he posted a Twitter message thanking Derek Chollet, a senior State Department official, for meeting him and supporting "our efforts for restoration of democracy and promotion and protection of human rights."