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Myanmar: UN expert’s report highlights junta's fraudulent claim to legitimacy, urges States to denounce 2023 ‘sham’ elections

31 January 2023



Myanmar’s junta—the State Administration Council (SAC)—is illegal and illegitimate, the UN human rights expert on Myanmar said today. He called for the international community to deny the SAC legitimacy, create a coalition of member states to enforce strong, coordinated sanctions against the SAC, and support the National Unity Government which has a stronger claim to legitimacy.

On the eve of the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar which deposed the democratically elected government, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews, issued a new report that lays bare the junta’s flawed claims to be the legitimate government of Myanmar.

“Two years ago, the military deposed a democratically elected government in an unconstitutional coup. The unrelenting violence that it unleashed on the people of Myannar has created a widespread human rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis and galvanised nationwide opposition,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“The conclusion is clear – the SAC’s military coup was illegal and its claim as Myanmar’s government is illegitimate and a new, coordinated international response to the crisis is imperative,” Andrews said.

In “Illegal and Illegitimate: Examining the Myanmar Military’s Claim as the Government of Myanmar and the International Response,” Andrews demonstrates why, under international standards, the junta is not a legitimate government and must not be recognised or engaged with by the international community.

Andrews warned that the junta was planning to seek legitimacy in 2023 by orchestrating a sham “election.” He urged member States, international organisations and election monitoring groups not to provide technical support to the SAC in its efforts to appear legitimate. “Instead they should explicitly denounce what will be a farcical exercise designed to perpetuate military control of Myanmar’s political system,” the UN expert said.

Andrews’ report also examines Member States’ interactions with the SAC, highlighting actions that have delegitimised or withheld recognition to the SAC, and actions by Member States that have created the appearance of legitimacy. 

“Importantly, the international community has, by and large, refused to accept the SAC’s claim to be the legitimate government of Myanmar,” said Andrews. 

However, the expert pointed to a small minority of States, including Belarus, China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka, that have implicitly supported the junta’s claim as the government of Myanmar by taking actions that are tantamount to recognition. “These actions include presenting diplomatic credentials to SAC leadership, strengthening economic and military relations with the SAC, and—in the case of at least Belarus and India—publicly engaging with the SAC on its plans to hold sham elections,” Andrews said.

“Even governments that have engaged the SAC, however, recognise the plain truth—the junta lacks legitimacy,” the Special Rapporteur said. For example, during consultations for the report, Vietnam told the Special Rapporteur, "[C]ontact, exchange and cooperation activities with Myanmar within bilateral settings or ASEAN frameworks should not be interpreted as or equated with a recognition of the military government or the State Administration Council.”

Addressing ASEAN Member States separately in his report, the UN Special Rapporteur noted that the regional grouping was divided on policy vis-à-vis Myanmar’s junta.

“Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore have reduced diplomatic engagement with the SAC and rejected its claims of legitimacy. Some of these Member States have also engaged with the National Unity Government. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam have chosen to engage with the SAC,” Andrews said.

“ASEAN States must distance themselves from the SAC, condemn its actions and support enforcement of international sanctions in their jurisdictions, while increasing engagement with the National Unity Government,” he said. “I urge all Member States, but particularly those that have already imposed costs on the junta, to initiate a strategic approach to strengthen, coordinate and enforce economic sanctions and an arms embargo on the SAC and provide more robust humanitarian aid to the millions in desperate need,” the UN expert urged.  

“Governments that recognise or support to the SAC are propping up a brutal junta that operates in flagrant violation of international human rights law,” he said.

Andrews urged Member States to provide recognition to the NUG as the legitimate representative of the people of Myanmar and begin providing appropriate support to help ensure its sustainability.

“The SAC is seeking to turn back the clock, close the door on Myanmar’s democratic opening, and through violence and force, destroy the advancements in human rights and economic opportunities that Myanmar’s people began to enjoy over the past decade,” the Special Rapporteur said. “For the sake of the human rights of the people of Myanmar, the SAC must not be allowed to achieve this outcome.”


Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar

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