Is he protester or ambassador? Who is Myanmar’s UN envoy?

New York: Myanmar’s UN ambassador, who strongly opposed the military coup in his country, insists he remains the permanent representative to the United Nations, but his Foreign Ministry has informed the UN that Kyaw Moe Tun has been terminated and his deputy is now in charge.

The dispute over who is recognised as Myanmar’s ambassador — the representative of the generals who carried out the February 1 coup or of the ousted democratically elected government — is under discussion and could end up in the UN General Assembly, where all 193 member states have seats.

Myanmar Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun flashes the three-fingered, a gesture of defiance used by protesters in Myanmar, at the end of his speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday.Credit:UNTV/AP

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the UN received two “contradictory” letters and was reviewing them to see who was the UN ambassador and whether the assembly’s Credentials Committee would get involved.

“We are in a very unique situation we have not seen in a long time,” Dujarric said. “We are trying to sort through all the legal, protocol and other implications” and are “trying to resolve things as quickly as possible from our end.”

The first letter from ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, sent on Monday to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir with a copy to the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, states that Tun was appointed by President Win Myint “who was then and remains the lawfully elected president of Myanmar” and by Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi on September 4, 2020.

Anti-coup protesters display pictures of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on Tuesday.Credit:AP

“The perpetrators of the unlawful coup against the democratic government of Myanmar have no authority to countermand the legitimate authority of the president of my country,” Tun said in the letter obtained by The Associated Press. “I wish therefore to confirm to you that I remain Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations.”

The second letter to the Secretary-General from Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which Dujarric said was received on Tuesday, makes no mention of the coup.

Dated February 28, the letter, also obtained by AP, informs Guterres that the State Administration Council “terminated the duties and responsibilities” of ambassador Tun on February 27 and would no longer recognise his accreditation to the UN General Assembly.

The ministry said Myanmar’s deputy UN ambassador, Tin Maung Naing, had been assigned as the charge d’affaires of the UN mission.

In his dramatic speech to a General Assembly meeting on Myanmar on Friday, ambassador Tun appealed for “the strongest possible action from the international community” to restore democracy to the country.

A woman is treated by a nurse after being tear-gassed during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on Tuesday.Credit:AP

He urged all countries to strongly condemn the coup, to refuse to recognise the military regime, and to ask the military leaders to respect the November elections won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

“It is time for the military to immediately relinquish power and release those detained,” including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, he said. “We will continue to fight for a government which is, of the people, by the people, for the people.”

His speech drew loud applause from diplomats in the assembly chamber who called it “powerful,” “brave” and “courageous.”

The new US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Wednesday AEDT reiterated she was “extraordinarily moved” by Tun’s statement, and commended him for his “bravery” and “compassion.”

She said Americans “stand strongly” with the ambassador and the people of Myanmar.

“The US is committed to using our renewed engagement here in New York [and] internationally to press the military to reverse its actions and restore a democratically elected government,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

The assembly meeting was called to hear a briefing from the UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who said it was time to “sound the alarm” about the coup.

“It is important the international community does not lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime,” she told diplomats.

The US State Department spokesman Ned Price said it understood Tun remained in position.


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