Malaysia to Talk to Myanmar’s Parallel Govt if Junta Fails to Cooperate With ASEAN

By The Irrawaddy 6 October 2021

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister issued a warning to Myanmar’s ruling generals that his country is ready to hold talks with Myanmar’s shadow government, if the junta continues to fail to cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy to Myanmar to solve the crisis sparked by the Myanmar military’s February 1 coup.

Saifuddin Abdullah told the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament on Wednesday that Malaysia is considering holding dialogue with the National Unity Government (NUG) if the military regime does not cooperate with the five-point consensus agreed upon by ASEAN to resolve the crisis, according to a local news agency Bernama.

ASEAN member Myanmar has been in social and political turmoil since the coup, which was followed by lethal and brutal crackdowns on anti-regime protesters. The international community had pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and ASEAN has appointed a special envoy who the junta has agreed to cooperate with, the one point of the five-point consensus that the junta has agreed to follow.

If Malaysia does meet with the NUG, it would be the first ASEAN country to hold official talks with Myanmar’s parallel government, which was formed by elected lawmakers from the ousted NLD.

That would be a huge blow to the junta, which has desperately been seeking official recognition from other countries, especially those in ASEAN, as Myanmar’s rightful government.

On Monday, the Malaysian Foreign Minister said that coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing could be excluded from a regional summit scheduled for later this month over the junta’s failure to cooperate with ASEAN’s efforts.

He voiced his frustrations after the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Monday, when he was informed that Naypyitaw was still not cooperating with the terms of the consensus.

In particular, the regime is blocking the proposed visit to Myanmar by ASEAN special envoy Erywan Yusof, who is seeking to meet all stakeholders in the crisis, including detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, was appointed as the ASEAN envoy in August.

However, so far Yusof has only been offered a meeting with former Vice President Henry Van Thio and the former Lower House speaker T Khun Myat, sources in Myanmar said.

Following the tussle, the special envoy said on Wednesday that the bloc was “deep in discussions” about not inviting junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to the summit on October 26-28, after the issue was raised by the Malaysian Foreign Minister and others.

“Up until today there has been no progress on the implementation of the five-point consensus, and this has raised a concern,” he said, according to Reuters.

Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing is very keen to attend the upcoming ASEAN summit, according to diplomats in Yangon, seeing it as a way of demonstrating the junta’s legitimacy and as a sign of ASEAN’s ‘acceptance’ of his dictatorship.

On Tuesday in Europe, the French senate voted unanimously to recognize the NUG. If the French parliament’s lower house approves the vote, France will become the first country to officially recognize Myanmar’s shadow government.

On the same day, the United States introduced the Burma Act, which aims to put more pressure on the junta by imposing sanctions on individuals and entities who helped stage the coup and who are responsible for the subsequent repression.

The new authorization calls for Washington to pressure the United Nations to take more decisive action on Myanmar, as well as to make a genocide determination over the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority, while supporting civil society organizations and allowing for humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand and the surrounding region.

In the meantime, Myanmar is rapidly sliding towards becoming a failed state, with the country in chaos and the military regime unable to control many regions as armed civilian resistance to the junta intensifies.

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