Myanmar’s UN Envoy Skips Address Amid US-China Brokered Deal With Junta

Experts say the deal will see him maintain a ‘low profile’ until a decision later this year.

Myanmar’s UN Envoy Skips Address Amid US-China Brokered Deal With Junta

Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from addressing the General Assembly on Monday as part of a U.S.-China-brokered deal that will see him maintain a “low profile” until a U.N. decision on who will represent the country expected later this year, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Over the weekend, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told RFA’s Myanmar Service that current U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun had withdrawn from his speaker slot at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday, the final day of the gathering.

“The only information that I have is that Myanmar is not inscribed on the speakers list,” Dujarric said at the time, referring further questions to the ambassador.

Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s since-deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) government, confirmed to Reuters news agency that he would not be speaking at the General Assembly, without providing a reason.

When pressed, he told the outlet that he was aware of an understanding between the nine members of the U.N. credentials committee, which include Russia, China and the U.S., although he did not elaborate.

On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup, alleging that the NLD engineered a landslide victory in the November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,136 people and arresting 6,850 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Russia and China have thrown their support behind the junta, while the U.S. has imposed sanctions on the military leadership over its violent response to those who oppose its rule.

The junta appointed military veteran Aung Thurein as its ambassador to the U.N., while Kyaw Moe Tun has asked that he have his accreditation renewed, despite reports that he was the target of a plot to kill or injure him because of his opposition to the coup.

The U.N. credentials committee traditionally meets in October or November and is expected to rule on who will represent Myanmar at that time.

Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service on Monday, Naing Swe Oo, executive director of the pro-military think-tank Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, said that Aung Thurein should be recognized as ambassador, given the junta’s control of the country’s executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.

He said Kyaw Moe Tun had been prevented from speaking at the UNGA “because of the informal agreement between China and the U.S.”

“All in all, I think this is a victory for the [junta] because only the representative of a government body who can officially represent the country is allowed to speak at UNGA, whether it is democratic, communist or authoritarian,” he said

“There is no reason the U.N. should recognize representatives other than those of [the junta].”

Delaying a decision

Richard Gowan, U.N. Director at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that under the U.S.-China-brokered deal, Kyaw Moe Tun had agreed to “take a low profile” until a formal decision is made later this year on who will represent Myanmar at the U.N.

“That means that the U.S. is happy because the military is not sitting at the U.N. gaining formal recognition, but also China is happy because their position is not going to come under criticism,” he said.

“It would be embarrassing for China if … you had the ambassador using the opportunity of the U.N. General Assembly to attack Beijing’s support for the military rulers in Myanmar. And secondly, it would be possible for the General Assembly to take a vote on who should represent Myanmar … [and] there is a chance that the military representatives would lose.”

Gowan told RFA he believes that both sides were willing to accept a delay and expects that the discussion will resume in November.

“Now we don't know what the credentials committee will do at that point, and we’re all waiting very cautiously,” he said.

“But getting into the General Assembly is just one thing, right? It doesn't it's not necessarily mean being recognized as a government.”

Gowan suggested that leaders in Washington and other Western capitals are concerned about fully endorsing the NUG, which on Sept. 7 declared a nationwide state of emergency and called for open rebellion against junta rule, prompting an escalation of attacks on military targets by various allied pro-democracy militias and ethnic armed groups.

“I think that Western officials don’t want to be seen to actually be endorsing more violence in Myanmar,” he said.

Attempts by RFA to reach Kyaw Moe Tun and military junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered Monday.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Cambodia’s Hun Sen Cuts Buddhist Festival Short as COVID-19 Cases Rise

He admitted being “negligent” in lifting restrictions ahead of Pchum Ben

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Cuts Buddhist Festival Short as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has cut short a 15-day long religious festival after admitting on social media that he was negligent in allowing the festival this year, which resulted in outbreaks of COVID-19 centered on many of the country’s pagodas.

During the Pchum Ben festival, which runs from Sept. 22 and Oct. 6 this year, extended families visit pagodas to make offerings to Buddhist monks and pay respect to seven generations of their ancestors.

Cambodia canceled the festival in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Hun Sen previously said that this year festivals could continue. But after increases in daily infections and deaths, Hun Sen said he was wrong to ease restrictions.

“I was negligent after seeing a slight decrease in COVID-19 infections in allowing celebration of Pchum Ben and allowing people to go to pagodas and make offerings per our tradition,” said Hun Sen in an audio message posted on Facebook Sept. 25.

“In only three days, the infection rate near some pagodas rose, causing the number of daily infections to jump from around 400, 500 or 600 cases per day to over 800, and deaths rose to more than 20 per day,” he said.

“I would be in complete shock if people are still allowed to go to the pagodas today and transmit COVID-19 back their family members at home,” he said. 

According to Cambodia’s National Ad-hoc Commission for COVID-19, the government has vaccinated nearly 13 million of the country’s population of more than 16 million, or about 81 percent—one of the highest percentages in Asia.

Of the 32.6 million doses the country has so far purchased or received from donations, more than 91 percent are from China.

Buddhist monks told RFA Monday that household members are permitted to bring food and offerings to pagodas for Pchum Ben, but public religious gatherings are restricted.

Each pagoda can accept food and offerings from the public through entrance gates, but the public cannot enter, according to the Venerable Khoeum Sorn, head of the secretariat of the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch Office.

“All Buddhist followers should please understand this measure. We all love our lives and our health. So, if you want to perform good merits, just send one person or two people to the pagoda,” he told RFA Monday.

“Buddhist monks will arrange tables at the entry gate of each pagoda for the public to leave their offerings. We cannot allow any long public gatherings during this Pchum Ben festival,” he said.

Other monks were concerned that the restrictions could result in food shortages in some of the country’s pagodas

The Venerable Yee Puthy, a monk at the Stung Meanchy Pagoda in Phnom Penh, said fewer than 20 or 30 people came to Stung Meanchy Pagoda to make offerings before the restrictions, but 277 monks and several more others live there.

“By not allowing the public to enter the pagoda and conduct rituals and turn over their offerings, some days we don’t have enough food,” Yee Puthy told RFA.

The abbot of the Prasat Kaukchork pagoda in the northwestern city of Siem Reap told RFA that he has had to spend money out of the pagoda’s savings to feed the 30 monks living at the pagoda because this year they received fewer donations, as the pagoda is located in a lockdown area.

RFA attempted to contact Seng Somony, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Cults and Religion, but he was unavailable for comment.

The spokesman told local media Sunday that the Ministry of Health collected samples from 975 monks and students living in 150 of Phnom Penh’s 154 pagodas. The ministry found that 141 monks and students contracted COVID-19 in the first four days of Pchum Ben. 

As of Monday, Cambodia has confirmed 109,087 COVID-19 cases and 2,243 deaths, according to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Cambodia on Monday announced it will donate to neighboring Laos 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccines it purchased from China.

Or Vandin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, told the pro-government media outlet Fresh News the doses would be delivered Tuesday at the Trapaing Kirel international crossing at Stung Treng province on the border with Laos’ Champassak province.  

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Eugene Whong. 

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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