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US and China’s procrastination on Myanmar UN seat row does more harm than good

September 17, 2021 GMT

It is understandable that Myanmar ’s anti-junta forces are sick and tired of the international community’s procrastination when it comes to bringing forth concrete plans to end the military’s brutality since the February 1 putsch.

The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( Asean ), which was handed a mandate by world powers to use the cache of “family ties” to bring junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to the negotiation table, spent months bickering with one another over who should be appointed the special envoy for the matter.

The senior Brunei diplomat Erywan Yusof has been handed that job, but from his recent comments, it is clear he has set himself somewhat unambitious goals in the short term, and that his long-delayed appointment is by no means a watershed moment in the crisis.

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Such foot-dragging is unacceptable, if you take into account what the anti-junta camp ” comprising the shadow National Unity Government ( NUG ) and the various ethnic armed organisations it has partnered with ” are up against.

With each passing day, the junta is continuing its savage campaign to crush dissent, and ousted civilian leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi remain in custody with no end in sight to their predicament.

This is why concerned international groups such as the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar have prefaced their alarm about the anti-junta camp’s recent declaration of a “defensive war” with an acknowledgement of this frustration.

It is very likely that the people of Myanmar will be witnessing more diplomatic procrastination in the coming days, as the 193-nation United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gathers for annual meetings.

The meetings are being closely watched given the uncertainty over who will fill Myanmar’s seat during the session. Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has been hoping that recognition of its representative, military veteran Aung Thurein, will grant it international legitimacy.

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The anti-junta camp says the world body must retain recognition of Suu Kyi’s appointee, Kyaw Moe Tun.

Going by a September 13 report in the Foreign Policy magazine, it appears that the UN’s power brokers ” the United States and China in particular ” have decided to kick the can down the road by blocking Aung Thurein from addressing the UNGA.

As a quid pro quo, Kyaw Moe Tun will also be asked not to address the session, although UN rules dictate that he will, for now, keep his seat until a credentials committee adjudicates the rival claims for who should be Naypyidaw’s representative in the world body.

Hoping to prioritise a myriad of other problems that are of greater significance to their national interests, the world powers seem to have decided this “creative procrastination” is the best course of action for now.

That is unfortunate, given how the agency has in the past accepted credentials submitted by ousted governments.

As 11 top international law experts said in an open letter this week, “a vote for the NUG would send a powerful signal to the people of Myanmar that UN member states have not forgotten their plight and stand with them”.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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