Daw Zin Mar Aung, the foreign minister of Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), was invited to join the Global Town Hall 2022 meeting on Saturday.
Eager to participate, she sent pre-recorded opening remarks in which she explained that the meeting’s theme, “Sustaining Peace and Development in a Divided World”, could not be more relevant in the context of Myanmar because, she said, “It is important for this forum to recognize, that in response to the military coup we have found common purpose across many of the different ethnicities and religions of Myanmar.”
But her remarks weren’t aired as planned because she was dropped from the meeting’s agenda at the last minute by organizers after the UN complained to a co-organizer that the inclusion of Daw Zin Mar Aung and her deputy would amount to taking sides in Myanmar’s conflict.
A UN spokesperson told The Irrawaddy via an email on Wednesday that the world body had no role in determining who participated in the event, saying “that was a matter for the organizers of the event.”
The event was hosted by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) in partnership with international advocacy organization Global Citizen to discuss pressing foreign policy issues. The FPCI later apologized to the NUG deputy foreign minister for what happened on Saturday, stating that it was pressured by a co-organizer to exclude the NUG representatives after a high–level UN official told Global Citizen to do so because the world body was afraid of appearing to take sides by inviting them.
For all those who missed an opportunity to learn from what Daw Zin Mar Aung had been scheduled to say, here are her planned remarks in full:
Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen
First, I would like to thank the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) and Global Citizen for providing me with this platform at the Global Townhall 2022. This year’s theme, Sustaining Peace and Development in a Divided World, could not be more relevant in the context of Myanmar.
The fundamental division in my country is between democracy and violence, between development and the desire to rule by the power of the gun.
The current trend in world affairs for more division and competition heightens concern that the years of effort for democracy, development, and peace in small countries like Myanmar might crumble to dust. In fact, our struggle for democracy was terminally ill for decades amid the Cold War rivalry of superpowers until the 1990s. Now, again, although civilian leaders tried hard to implement elections and democracy to bring peace and development, elected representatives of the people and civilian government leaders have been ousted by a brutal military junta.
The actions of the military, in imposing an unwanted and illegal coup and enforcing their will by airstrikes, artillery bombardment, by the bombing of schools and the beheading of teachers, as well as by hanging activists, have created an experience of daily horror in my country.
But we are transforming these challenges into opportunity by creating a new unity. I think this is important for this forum to recognise, that in response to the military coup we have found common purpose across the many different ethnicities and religions of Myanmar. We have found that what unites us is in fact more important than the histories that divide us.
This is exactly the opposite of what the Myanmar military wants. It has always practiced forms of divide and rule, engaging with one ethnic group or party over another, to keep the country at war with itself so that it can secure its position, politically and economically, ruling for its own good and not for others.
So, we have spent a great deal of time and effort in creating a new kind of politics. This is marked by cooperation, by being honest about what divides us, and finding new forms of governance that will make Myanmar a country where, in the future, all find a place.
Our Federal Democratic Charter lays out a vision for a federal democracy in which sovereignty belongs to the people, in which all people in Myanmar, irrespective of religion or ethnicity, enjoy the same fundamental rights and carry the same responsibility for the common good.
We could not have created this new vision of Myanmar had the military not first stolen our democratic development from us. They have sought to destroy us, to strip people of hope and economic security for their own benefit. They have used their Russian guns to crush our freedom. But they have failed, because in this hard fight we have found a new unity.
And we will prevail. I want to make this very clear to you. The National Unity Government of Myanmar, built from the alliances of people who reject the military coup, will bring freedom to the people of Myanmar.
We will do that by enabling the defense of our homes and our friends. The military controls less than 50 percent of the country even now. We will work hard to block the flows of foreign money that the military uses to buy its guns. We will build international alliances among those who care for Myanmar and its people. And we will deepen the communion of interests among the ethnic and other parties who have come together in this fight for our lives and our country.
We will have peace. But we cannot go back to what we had before, to a system where the military could annul an election as and when it wanted, on whatever spurious grounds. That is not peace. We will not go back to a system where the military control large parts of the government. That is not peace. We will not allow the military to kill and rape their way across ethnic areas of our country, in pursuit of a false nationalism. That is not peace.
And so, although we have a long battle ahead of us to rid ourselves of a military that has been the source of such division and violence and thievery in our country, we are full of hope. The people of Myanmar will not allow themselves to be crushed. In our struggle, we have found a new unity. This is a unity built not on fear and the gun but on a firm belief in the ability of all the ethnicities of our country to build a new nation grounded in justice, equity, and peace.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to reaffirm that our struggle and victory will truly be a bridge for the divided world by promoting democracy, peace, and development to the region and to the world.
So, please join us in rising from these ashes of cruelty to forge and restore democratic rule, and realize our collective vision for stable, peaceful, developed federal union.