United Nations weighing Myanmar’s credentials, amid mounting frustration in ASEAN at military rulers’ failure to implement peace plan.
UN chief Antonio Guterres asked to postpone a virtual meeting with Southeast Asian ministers at the last minute to avoid signalling any recognition of Myanmar’s military government by being in the same online room as the military’s envoy, United Nations diplomats have said.
The meeting between the UN secretary-general and foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – including Wunna Maung Lwin, the foreign minister appointed by the military – had been due to take place last Friday.
But the day before, Guterres asked ASEAN to postpone the meeting “until a time when it can be held in a mutually agreeable format, in view of the ongoing urgent international and regional issues”, according to an October 8 note from ASEAN chair Brunei – seen by the Reuters news agency – notifying members of the delay.
UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Guterres did not want to get ahead of a decision by UN member states on who will sit in Myanmar’s seat at the world body after rival claims were made by the military and Kyaw Moe Tun, the current UN ambassador who was appointed by the elected government.
The generals seized power on February 1, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected government leaders on the day the new parliament was due to convene. United Nations credentials give weight to a government.
News of Guterres’s reluctance to be seen at the same meeting as a military envoy comes as ASEAN foreign ministers are due to hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss excluding coup leader and military chief Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit, amid mounting frustration over the ruling military’s failure to comply with a road map for peace that was drawn up six months ago.
ASEAN agreed on a five-point consensus with Min Aung Hlaing in April, but the generals have made no progress in its implementation and have also ruled out allowing a regional envoy, Brunei’s second foreign affairs minister, Erywan Yusof, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
It also continues to crack down on those opposed to its rule, with at least 1,171 people killed since the power grab and more than 7,000 people arrested, according to local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The army has also been accused of attacks in ethnic minority areas in the country’s border regions that have forced thousands to flee, as well as targetting churches and Christian clergy.
Some of ASEAN’s 10 members, including the Philippines and Malaysia, have said Min Aung Hlaing should be barred from the summit, scheduled to start on October 26, given the military’s lack of cooperation.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Myanmar with Erywan in a call on Thursday.
The two “expressed concern over the violence and deteriorating crisis” in the country and the need for the military to end violence, release those unjustly imprisoned and restore the country’s transition to democracy.
“They also reaffirmed the need to hold the Burmese regime accountable to the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus and facilitate a meaningful visit by Erywan to Burma to include engagements with all stakeholders,” the State Department said in a statement released after the call.
Friday’s previously unscheduled virtual meeting will be hosted by Brunei, the current ASEAN chair, multiple sources based in ASEAN member countries, including diplomats and government officials, told Reuters.
A UN committee, which includes Russia, China and the United States, is due to meet next month to consider Myanmar’s competing credential applications.
The military has put forward Aung Thurein as its candidate for Myanmar’s UN seat.