Interview: UN Vote Shows Myanmar Events ‘Unacceptable to Most Countries’

Kyaw Moe Tun, the deposed government’s envoy to the UN, tallies mounting setbacks for the junta at international bodies.
2021-07-01
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Interview: UN Vote Shows Myanmar Events ‘Unacceptable to Most Countries’ Myanmar's ambassador to the UN Kyaw Moe Tun makes a three-finger salute as he delivers an impassioned plea at an informal meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York for the international community to take the "strongest possible action" to end the junta's rule in the country, Feb. 26, 2021.
AFP

Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations, is the most prominent of his country’s diplomats to reject the military junta that overthrew the elected government on Feb. 1 and join the anti-regime shadow government known as the National Unity Government (NUG). He told Khin Maung Soe of RFA’s Myanmar Service in an interview conducted at the Residence of the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations in New York that “The Myanmar military council continues to fail in the international arena" and pointed to a string of setbacks to the military regime’s attempts to represent Myanmar’s 54 million people at meetings key United Nations bodies and in UN General ssembly voting. Kyaw Moe Tun also laid out the NUG’s plan to pursue charges against the military regime for human rights violations at the International Criminal Court. The following Q&A has been edited for length:

RFA: The international community – UN agencies and others – appears to be rejecting the military junta. What is happening?

Kyaw Moe Tun: If you look at the UN General Assembly (on June 18, calling for a halt to arms sales to Myanmar and urging the military to respect November election results and release political detainees), there are a total of 193 countries and 119 of them have supported us. Abstention by 36 countries. And there was only one country that objected. This kind of vote is extremely rare. It's because the events unfolding in Myanmar and the human rights violations happening there were so ugly and were unacceptable to most countries.  To answer your question, look at the World Health Organization assembly in May. The military wanted to send their delegation and so did NUG. The decision was deferred. A similar decision was made at International Red Cross. What is also noteworthy is what happened at last month's Food and Agriculture Organization meeting. The regime's delegate was not given a turn to give his address. His turn was passed on to the next delegate. And at the recent meeting for the Law of the Sea Convention, the junta's representative was not accepted. At the Human Rights Council meeting now being held in Geneva, the agenda for Myanmar includes a report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to be adopted and an interaction with the High Commissioner as well as an interaction with the Special Rapporteur. We requested that the Human Rights Council postpone the adoption of the UPR as the events in Myanmar since Feb. 1 were so unacceptable. The council has accepted our request to postpone it. There have been so many human rights violations. It is time now to submit a report on Sustainable Development Goals. But the report is currently being prepared by officials under the regime and we don't think it will be in line with reality. We notified the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council on this issue and requested on June 21 for a postponement of the National Voluntary Review and he replied the next day that he had accepted our request. The developments have clearly shown the setbacks in the international arena the military regime is facing at present and that the international community has not ignored the struggles of our people.

RFA: What can you tell us about plans to have action taken against the junta at International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice?

Kyaw Moe Tun: We have all along advocated the need to take action against those who committed human rights violations. The Independent Committee of Enquiry in its report says there were many violations and atrocities in Rakhine state in 2016-2017 and the NLD government had pledged to carry out necessary action to find justice. But more human rights violations occurred in the country after February 1 and we can say the entire judicial system has collapsed. What NUG is doing now is to find ways to approach ICC to bring the past violators as well as those who had committed such violence after Feb 1. We are still working on how to get action taken against the responsible military leaders even though Myanmar is not yet a member of the Rome Statute and at the same time we are trying to become a member of the ICC.

RFA: Do you think Myanmar diplomats in other countries would like to support the (anti-junta) Spring Revolution?

Kyaw Moe Tun: You can ask anyone regarding the military coup. A large percentage of them would say they do not like the coup. Only those who are somehow related to the military would accept them. Even some of them, though they do not say it publicly, have said so in private. So many career diplomats have suffered under various military regimes when promotions were concerned. Many career people in government ministries have enjoyed democratic rule. During military rule, many rarely went beyond the rank of a director, as top positions were usually filled by former military officers. It wasn't so under the democratic government.

RFA: You are the only prominent diplomat who has stood up against the regime. Why is that?

Kyaw Moe Tun: It is not easy for them to make such decisions even though they support the Spring Revolution. Some of them have to think of their families. No matter what, I have respect for their decisions. However I would like to say that it is now time for them to reconsider standing by the people. It would be more effective if we all can make a united stand.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.

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