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Malaysian Foreign Minister Meets With Myanmar’s Parallel Civilian Govt

Saifuddin Abdullah (center) with a delegation comprising representatives of the NUG, National Unity Consultative Council and Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, and Myanmar’s permanent representative to the UN. / Saifuddin Abdullah / Twitter

Malaysia’s foreign minister met with representatives of Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) in New York on Monday ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.

The meeting makes Malaysia the first country from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to publicly and personally receive delegates from the NUG, an umbrella organization for the resistance movement that has been trying to topple the military regime in Myanmar since last year.

The minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, hosted the NUG’s deputy foreign minister, U Moe Zaw Oo, as well as U Aung Kyi Nyunt, who is chairperson of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)—the NUG’s parliamentary body—and a representative of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), a body formed to bring together forces opposed to the regime. The meeting was joined by NUG-appointed Myanmar Ambassador to the UN U Kyaw Moe Tun and two other NUG ministers, U Aung Myo Min and U Htin Lin Aung.

In a tweet, Saifuddin Abdullah said the participants discussed the latest developments in Myanmar. He met with NUG Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung in May.

The Monday meeting in New York came shortly before the UNGA. The Myanmar issue will be the sole focus of a number of meetings, and will be discussed at some others, where Malaysia’s perspective on the country will be raised.

The specific meetings on Myanmar include those with the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs on Sept. 20; the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar on Sept. 21; and the Informal ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting on Sept. 22.

“Malaysia will listen to the updates on what is really happening in Myanmar from the representatives of the people of Myanmar, exchange notes, and discuss the next steps [led by the people of Myanmar], and how Malaysia can be of assistance,” the foreign minister said, Bernama News reported.

Myanmar has been socially and politically devastated by last year’s military coup. A vast majority of the country’s people have resisted military rule and the regime is unable to control the country due to widespread popular armed resistance. So far the junta has killed more than 2,000 people for opposing it.

Following the coup, the NUG was formed by elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) and their ethnic allies to challenge the regime at home and abroad, commanding the loyalty of the vast majority of Myanmar people. The regime has branded the NUG as a terrorist organization.

In the wake of the coup and subsequent violence, ASEAN adopted a five-point peace plan for Myanmar in April 2021 urging the junta to immediately end the violence in the country and to hold an inclusive political dialogue, among other steps. The regime has failed to implement the plan. As a result, relations between the regional grouping and the junta have turned sour, with the regime’s leadership barred from attending summits since last year.

Among ASEAN member states, Malaysia has been particularly critical of the regime.

In May, Saifuddin Abdullah attracted the regime’s ire by commenting that a move by ASEAN to informally engage the NUG “may be conceivable, especially on how humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar who are still in their country can be delivered.”

On his meeting with the NUG foreign minister, he said it was “to express Malaysia’s support and solidarity with the people of Myanmar and stand ready to work towards restoring peace and democracy in Myanmar.”

ASEAN, meanwhile, has been criticized for its peace plan for Myanmar, as it has proved to be ineffective.

Saifuddin Abdullah said Malaysia will propose that ASEAN undertake a serious review of the plan to see whether it is still relevant and if it should be replaced with something better ahead of the bloc’s summit in November.