Burmese Dissidents in Exile Challenge Junta’s UN Seat
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Burma

Burmese Dissidents in Exile Challenge Junta’s UN Seat


By WAI MOE Wednesday, September 10, 2008


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Two Burmese dissident groups in exile, the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) and the Members of Parliament Union-Burma (MPU), attempted on Tuesday to threaten the Burmese junta’s claim to a seat at the United Nations.

The groups filed a formal challenge to the regime’s credentials yesterday, saying that Burma’s legitimate government was elected in 1990 during a free and fair election, and that the military junta had illegally and ruthlessly disregarded the will of the people.

The letter challenging the junta’s right to a place at the UN was signed by San San, vice chairperson of the MPU and a member of parliament who was elected in 1990.

A spokesperson for the UN said that the letter had been received by the secretary-general’s office and could be referred to the UN General Assembly’s credentials committee. The assembly’s 63rd session will open on September 16.

The NCGUB and MPU also announced the establishment of their permanent mission to the UN. Thein Oo, secretary of the MPU, has been named as the permanent representative of the groups in New York, for day-to-day dealing with the UN.

“I was appointed for the UN mission because the NCUB and the MPU decided that, as an elected person, I would be better to work with the international community at the UN,” said Thein Oo, who was a successful candidate in Mandalay Division in the 1990 election.

The MPU was formed in exile by elected representatives from Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, and various ethnic parties.

Regarding the group’s campaign to unseat the Burmese junta at the UN, he noted that the regime had no right to represent the people of Burma because it had gone against their will by holding onto power after losing the election 18 years ago.

“The military junta held an election in 1990, but the generals never honored the results. This failure to honor the election results means neglecting the people’s will,” said Thein Oo, who is also the chairman of the Burma Lawyers’ Council.

He also said that the junta was unfit to sit at the UN because it had committed state-sponsored violence, particularly in the brutal ambush on democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters in Depayin, Sagaing Division, in May 2003, and the bloody crackdown on monk-led mass protests in September 2007.

Thein Oo added that Burma’s exiled government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), which consists of parliamentarians elected in 1990, did not participate in the credentials challenge.

Although the NCGUB failed to join the unseating campaign, the government in exile said that it agreed with the action in a statement released on August 8. NCGUB Prime Minister Sein Win said in the statement that the group agrees with the campaign “in principal.”

An NCGUB source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the group declined to join the campaign because it saw no possibility of success.

“The NCGUB attempted to unseat the regime in the past, but nothing happened. Although the Western democracies, such as the United States and the European Union, support it, China, Russia and other Asians would not follow,” the source said.

The NCGUB has an office for its UN mission in New York. Medical doctor Thaung Tun, a well-known dissident in exile, has headed the office for 17 years. He is said to have been instrumental in efforts to put Burma’s political crisis before the UN Security Council.

Analysts say there is a split among Burmese dissidents in exile over the issue of how to challenge the regime’s international standing. At the center of the controversy is Maung Maung, the secretary-general of the NCUB and the mastermind of the current campaign.

Since early this year, Maung Maung has announced plans to open an office in New York that will launch an aggressive public relations campaign against Burma’s military regime. Maung Maung criticized the NCGUB as irrelevant, according to sources in the exiled dissident community.

“They [the NCGUB] have not joined yet in our campaign because of their different perspective. But we hope they will join in the future,” said Thein Oo, who resigned from a ministerial post in the NCGUB in February.

“If the NCGUB joins, it will be better for the credentials challenge because government-to-government challenge is a more effective tactic in diplomatic affairs,” he added.

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