Two representatives of Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) were barred from participating in the Global Town Hall 2022 meeting at the last minute after the UN complained to a co-organizer that their inclusion would amount to taking sides in the country’s conflict, sources close to the matter said.
Joined by leading public figures such as former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and current US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink among many others, Saturday’s livestreamed meeting, “Sustaining Peace and Development in a Divided World”, was hosted by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) in partnership with international advocacy organization Global Citizen to discuss pressing foreign policy issues.
Global Citizen, also known as the Global Poverty Project, works with the UN in various sectors including poverty reduction.
Press materials released ahead of the meeting show NUG Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung among the speakers, along with two senior UN officials. NUG Deputy Foreign Minister U Moe Zaw Oo is listed as a member of a discussion panel.
Formed following the military coup last year, Myanmar’s NUG is a parallel government, challenging the regime’s legitimacy at home and abroad. It claims a mandate as a legitimate representative of the Myanmar people, enjoying widespread support at home and informal support internationally.
When the meeting started on Saturday, however, Daw Zin Mar Aung’s prerecorded opening remarks were not aired and U Moe Zaw Oo was barred from joining the discussion. The meeting announcement had been updated to exclude Daw Zin Mar Aung’s picture.
“When I entered the link to participate in the Global Town Hall as a discussant after the key note speech, I was sent to the breakout room. Then I was informed that I had been removed from the agenda due to a complaint from the UN,” U Moe Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.
The FPCI held a meeting with the NUG deputy foreign minister on Monday, apologizing to him for what happened on Saturday.
According to U Moe Zaw Oo, FPCI director Dr. Dino Patti Djalal told him that Global Citizen was told by a high level UN official to drop NUG representatives from the meeting because the world body was afraid of appearing to take sides by inviting them.
“The FPCI said their partner Global Citizen pressured them to take us out even though the FPCI didn’t wish to ban us,” U Moe Zaw Oo said.
After having the NUG representatives removed from the meeting, the UN also withdrew one of its two participants—Amia J. Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary general—from the meeting.
U Moe Zaw Oo denounced the UN’s interference in the meeting.
“The UN has nothing to do with such a meeting and they shouldn’t interfere with anyone. The organizer has the right to invite anyone, and the participants have the right to freedom of discussion,” he said.
The FPCI has already organized several engagements involving the NUG and said it would arrange another event or diplomatic briefing for the civilian government.