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One Country, Two Envoys

The UN is facing an unprecedented situation: two ambassadors claiming to represent Myanmar in the international body. The incumbent U Kyaw Moe Tun has thrown in his lot with the deposed civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, given the three-finger salute popular with her backers and refused to give way to the military junta appointed ambassador, U Tin Maung Maung.

“We’re in a very unique situation we have not seen in a long time. We are trying to sort through all the legal protocol and other implications,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told journalists during a briefing.

The key issue for the UN is whether a military government which has overthrown a duly elected civilian government, and lacks legitimacy, is the legal successor and therefore within its rights to send a new ambassador. Or is it interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation?

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As its legal brains try and figure out what to do, incumbent ambassador U Kyw Moe Tun is leaving no stone unturned to beat the drum for Suu Kyi, emerging a hero in the process with the US government. US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield lauded his courage in a tweet which said, “I commended him for his courageous statement at the UN General Assembly and reiterated our support for the people of Burma and the restoration of the democratically-elected government.”

President Joe Biden has threatened to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar. In a statement he said. “The international community should come together in one voice to press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have detained.”