Who’s the real deal? Myanmar’s two ambassadors to the United Nations divided

Myanmar’s two rival governments now both claim to represent the country at the United Nations, potentially allowing U.N. member states to step in to decide who should be recognized as an ambassador. “I can confirm that we have received two letters,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “They are currently under consideration.”

Ambassador Kyaw Maung Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations, addressed the General Assembly to urge the international community to reverse the military coup in Myanmar. (Feb. 26, 2021)

He said he received a letter from Kyaw Moe Tun on Monday (March 1). The Burmese ambassador, who took up his post last October, confirmed that he remains Myanmar’s permanent representative to the UN. The second letter was received Tuesday from Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, which informed the UN secretary-general that Tin Maung Naing, deputy representative to the UN, was appointed chargé d’affaires on Feb. 28.

“Let’s be honest here, we are in a very unique situation that we haven’t seen in a very long Time,” Dugarik said. “We are trying to clarify all the legal procedures and other issues.”

In a moving appeal to the international community at the U.N. General Assembly last Friday, Burmese Ambassador Kyaw Maung Tun urged countries to condemn the Feb. 1 military coup and “use any means necessary” to protect the Burmese people. State television announced his dismissal the next day.

In a letter addressed to the president of the General Assembly and copied to the UN secretary-general’s office, Kyaw Maung Tun said he was appointed by “the legitimately elected president of Myanmar” U Win Myint and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi.

Win Myint, Aung San Suu Kyi and dozens of other officials were arrested during the military’s power grab.

There were popular protests across Burma against the military coup. The protests have become increasingly violent, and the death toll is rising. Diplomats say the U.N. Security Council will discuss the situation in Burma on Friday.

“The culprits of the illegal coup against the democratic government of Burma have no right to revoke the legitimate authority of the president of Burma,” Kyaw Maung Tun affirmed in the letter. “I therefore wish to confirm to you that I remain the permanent representative of Myanmar to the United Nations.”

The note from Myanmar’s foreign ministry was unsigned but bore an official seal and announced that “the State Council of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar terminates the duties of Ambassador Kyaw Maung Tun” effective Feb. 27, a day after he spoke to condemn the coup.

“In this regard, we would like to request the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to accept the decision taken by the State Council of Myanmar,” the letter reads.

Traditionally, if a dispute arises over who is the authentic representative to the United Nations, the UN Credentials Committee, which is made up of nine member states, will deliberate and make a recommendation.

“After that, it would go to the General Assembly as a whole to consider the recommendations submitted by the Credentials Committee,” said Brenden Varma, spokesman for the UNGA president.

“We have not seen any official evidence or request for his dismissal, and he is currently the representative of the Burmese government,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said Monday at a press conference when asked who the United States recognizes as Burma’s representative to the United Nations,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a press conference Monday when asked who the United States recognized as Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly called on the military to reverse its actions and respect the will of the Burmese people as expressed in the November elections. Myanmar’s National League for Democracy won 82 percent of the vote in that election.

UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener on Friday urged the international community to “refrain from granting legitimacy or recognition” to the military regime.

She said she was deeply troubled by the military’s continued arrests of political leaders, including National League for Democracy lawmakers, government officials, civil society activists and journalists. She condemned the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and said it was “unacceptable” that the death toll was rising.