Commentary: The battle for Mynamar’s seat in the UN General Assembly

In some contentious cases, the Committee has deferred making any decision at all (Afghanistan in 1996 and Cambodia in 1997).

What happens in the UNGA is another matter again. It is common practice for the UNGA to accept the recommendations of the Credentials Committee without a vote.

But there is no rule that it must. In 1973, the UNGA voted to reject the credentials of the representatives of South Africa because of the country’s anti-democratic apartheid regime.


In the case of Myanmar, the UNGA stands with the democratically elected government. In June, the UNGA passed a resolution calling on Myanmar’s armed forces to respect the will of the people – as freely expressed in the Nov 8, 2020 election – and called on all countries to end arms dealing with Myanmar.

The resolution is not binding but it is significant – the UNGA very rarely condemns coups. The resolution was passed with only one vote against – that of Belarus – and with the support of more than half the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states.

A vote in the UNGA about the credentials of the Myanmar appointee would probably go the way of the ousted government.

In the run-up to September, Myanmar’s government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), is engaged in a worldwide lobbying effort for diplomatic recognition. Recognition – by powerful states or by many states – would boost the NUG’s case for recognition by the Credentials Committee.

Recognition of a government on a state-to-state basis is a unilateral political act – states are entitled to recognise whichever government they want. The general practice is that states recognise the government that exercises military control over the territory of the state – and holds the capital city.

On this count, in Myanmar’s case, the military’s claim is stronger.

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Author: Shirley