Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has again urged ASEAN to engage with Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) to help resolve the country’s political crisis, after hosting a meeting with the shadow government’s leaders on Monday.
Speaking alongside NUG’s minister of human rights Aung Myo Min and minister of communications, information and technology Htin Linn Aung after their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Datuk Seri Saifuddin said that ASEAN should use a framework “that has a clear end game; that is bringing back democracy in Myanmar, that is realised through an inclusive and fair negotiation and participation of major stakeholders including NUG and NUCC”.
The NUCC, or National Unity Consultative Council, comprises a broad group of Myanmar stakeholders opposed to the military regime and helping to shape a federal democracy for Myanmar.
Saifuddin said the transition plan for Myanmar may include rewriting its Constitution.
“And if it is required to have another election…then that election has to be agreed upon by the stakeholders and definitely not the election that has been announced by the junta.”
Saifuddin has been ASEAN’s most vocal proponent for engagement with the NUG.
Monday’s meeting was his second public meeting with NUG leaders since May, when he met NUG foreign minister Zin Mar Aung on the sidelines of the US-ASEAN Summit in Washington.
Also present during Monday’s meeting were members of an international parliamentary inquiry on the global response to the Myanmar crisis initiated by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a grouping of regional legislators.
Myanmar’s military seized power from its civilian government on Feb 1 last year, triggering a mass resistance that has now turned into a civil war in parts of the country.
The military junta led by commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing alleges that the 2020 general election was fraudulent, and plans to hold fresh elections under new rules that will make it difficult for the ousted National League for Democracy party to return.
Close to one million people have been displaced since the coup, while more than 12,000 political prisoners remain behind bars.
The junta is vying with the NUG for international recognition, including at the UN, where it wants to install its own appointee. The current Myanmar permanent representative to the UN is Kyaw Moe Tun, who is loyal to the NUG.
The junta, meanwhile, regards the NUG as a terrorist organisation and has refused to engage with it.
It has dragged its feet on implementing ASEAN’s “five-point consensus”, which calls, among other things, for the violence in Myanmar to stop and for inclusive dialogue among all parties concerned.
ASEAN has barred Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and junta foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin from its high level meetings, but continues to allow other junta ministers to take part in the bloc’s proceedings.
ASEAN, however, has not formally engaged with the NUG or NUCC; something which Saifuddin said Malaysia was “not satisfied” with.
APHR chairman Charles Santiago observed that the international allies of Myanmar’s military government, Russia and China, have shown a level of commitment to supporting the junta which surpasses that of countries claiming to support Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.
Saifuddin said ASEAN needs to decide by its November summit whether the five-point consensus is still relevant or “if it should be replaced by something better”.
Saifuddin is due to meet his counterparts at an informal ASEAN foreign ministers meeting on Thursday.
There, he also plans to ask ASEAN to review the provision of humanitarian aid conducted by the task force that includes the Myanmar junta, and support the non-governmental organisations on the ground.