The Junta Must Not Be Recognized

December 9th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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“Getting the UN seat will be just the white of the egg. The yolk will be our domestic force.”

U Aung Myo Min, Minister of Human Rights, National Unity Government

As atrocities committed by the military junta continue across Myanmar, including airstrikes in Depayin, and human rights violations documented by Karen civil society organizations, mixed messaging from incoming ASEAN Chair, Cambodia, INTERPOL, and the UN General Assembly Credentials Committee on recognition of the junta shows that a unified diplomatic international response is urgently needed to ensure no legitimacy is bestowed on the junta.

On 6th of December, the UN General Assembly approved the decision of the UN Credentials Committee to defer a decision on accreditation regarding who to accept as Myanmar’s UN Permanent Representative. This means that Kyaw Moe Tun, the current and legitimate representative will thus continue in his post, at least for now. Junta efforts to have their man recognized have thus failed. This is a move welcomed by the National Unity Government (NUG), consisting of elected lawmakers and other democratic forces, as the legitimate government of Myanmar. As the NUG’s Minister of Human Rights, Aung Myo Min stated, “The General Assembly’s decision would be a master key for NUG and U Kyaw Moe Tun to open every door.” Meanwhile, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the elected lawmakers’ body within the NUG, also welcomed the decision by the Credentials Committee, while Myanmar civil society organizations stated that this “constitutes a clear rejection of the illegal Myanmar military junta’s application.”

Yet other international bodies are sending mixed messages regarding junta recognition. After ASEAN’s unprecedented move to not invite Min Aung Hlaing to the ASEAN summit in October, the next country to take chairmanship of ASEAN, Cambodia, is more inclined to continue a business as usual approach. The Myanmar junta’s representative, Wunna Maung Lwin, masquerading as a foreign minister, visited Cambodia on 6-7 of December, while the Cambodia Prime Minister, and incoming Chair, Hun Sen, has announced that he is willing to visit Myanmar with no conditions attached. If he did, he would be the first country leader to do so. Given Hun Sen’s own ruthless approach to dissent, human rights violations, and corrupt style of governance, the two leaders would have a lot in common.

INTERPOL, the world’s police body, has also failed to sanction the military junta by inviting the head of the junta’s police force, Than Hlaing, to its own General Assembly. Than Hlaing is sanctioned by the US, Canada and the UK for his role in violently cracking down on pro-democracy protesters following the military’s coup attempt. He is currently heading up brutal military operations in northwest Myanmar, a scorched earth campaign that is wreaking destruction, devastation, displacement, and vicious violence against the people of Sagaing and Magwe Regions and Chin State. As a letter by 259 civil society organizations, both from Myanmar and throughout the world stated, “The single biggest threat to their security is the Myanmar military junta, who is attempting to represent Myanmar in INTERPOL and use the General Assembly as a platform for political gain and international legitimacy.” They also point out that the junta should be designated a terrorist organization and one of INTERPOL’s mandates is to counter terrorism. It is a terrible irony that someone leading operations that are amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes and should be locked up in jail, has been allowed to represent Myanmar at the world body of law enforcement.

While Than Hlaing leads the violence in the northwest, other parts of Myanmar are also experiencing brutal violence at the hands of the Myanmar military. On Saturday, 5 December, junta troops opened fire and rammed a car through a small protest in Yangon, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more. In Depayin Township, thousands of people have been displaced as junta soldiers raided villages and launched airstrikes. Helicopter gunships shot at villagers, killing several people and injuring more. Depayin has a tragic history of junta violence, it being the site of a attempt on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s life in 2003, when a pro-junta militia attacked her convoy, killing around 70 people.

In addition, the Karen Peace Support Network, a network of Karen civil society organizations, released a briefing paper highlighting the ongoing military operations in Mutraw District, Karen State. Documenting how junta troops “have increasingly targeted villagers for collective punishment: looting and destroying property, arbitrarily arresting men and women, and using them as porters and human shields” they also note that almost the entire rural population of southern Mutraw District, around 82,000 people have been displaced.

Given the atrocities that the military junta is committing throughout the country, whether in the northwest, the southeast, or in the central plains, to recognize the junta in any diplomatic forum is a dereliction of duty and an insult and undermining of the people of Myanmar who are taking immense risk of their life and life of their love ones. INTERPOL must not only exclude the junta’s representative, but invite the NUG. ASEAN must also continue to exclude the junta from its summits and extend its invitation to the NUG. Such acts of diplomatic sanction are a necessary step that actors in the international community can undertake. While these alone will not win the revolution, they do add pressure to a junta that has failed in its coup attempt and is not in control of the country. As Aung Myo Min puts it. “Getting the UN seat will be just the white of the egg. The yolk will be our domestic force.”


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

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Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”