US Citizen Among the Advisers to Myanmar Military Regime Despite Sanctions Imposed by US

By Nyein Nyein 20 February 2021

Myanmar’s military regime formed an advisory board to its State Administrative Council (SAC) on Thursday, and one of its seven members is a United States citizen, despite the fact that the US has imposed sanctions on coup leaders.

Dr. Salai (Andrew) Ngun Cung Lian, a United States citizen, is former legal counsel for the defunct Myanmar Peace Center and Rakhine State Inquiry Commission under the President U Thein Sein administration from 2012 to 2015.

Three of the advisory board members are women. Like Dr. Salai Ngun Cung Lian, some of them have been vocal critics of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD).

An ethnic Chin, Salai Ngun Cung Lian, received his bachelor’s degree in international economics and cultural affairs from Valparaiso University. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctor of law degree from Indiana University’s Mauer School of Law. He emigrated to the US in October 1996.

While at Indiana University, he co-founded the Center for Constitutional Democracy which describes itself as “a pioneer in the development of the emerging discipline of constitutional design.”

He returned to Myanmar to run the first fully US-owned legal firm in the country, Herzfeld, Rubin, Meyer and Rose Law Firm Limited, registered in July 2013 but already liquidated.

Until 2012, business investment was virtually off-limits to US companies because of sanctions against Myanmar’s military junta.

Ngun Cung Lian also worked as a negotiator for the Chin National Front (CNF), an ethnic armed group, and was with the CNF fighting the Myanmar military in 1990s. He had to leave Myanmar for India after the 1988 nationwide uprising, which turned Myanmar into dictatorship for 22 more years. CNF is one of the ten signatories to the 2015 nationwide ceasefire agreement.

After the NLD government dissolved the Myanmar Peace Center and reformed the peace commission, he and other advisers worked with several non-governmental organizations involved in the peace process.

Dr. Ngun Cung Lian works with the think-tank Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security (MIPS) as research director of the Federalism and Constitutional Reform Program.

For an American citizen to be advising the coup leaders is an apparent violation of the sanctions provisions set by a US executive order, according to a source familiar with the sanctions.

The provisions prohibit a US citizen from making “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.”

Following his appointment to the advisory board, thousands of ethnic Chin have denounced him for joining hands with the military. A campaign against him has been mounted on Facebook for serving as an adviser to coup leaders who are in the US sanctions list.

As of Thursday the US, the UK and Canada have also imposed targeted sanctions against the military leaders for seizing power from the democratically elected NLD government and detaining civilian leaders, including the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint on Feb. 1.

Millions of Myanmar citizens have taken to the streets to protest against the military coup nationwide, while doctors, civil servants and others are taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) in defiance of the regime.

On Friday, social media users were sharing a post which reads, “Please make a petition to DHS [US Department of Homeland Security] for nullifying the Citizenship of Dr. Ngun Cung Lian, an advisor of Min Aung Hlaing and Myanmar Military leaders, residing at Indianapolis, US.”

The regime’s advisory board is led by Commander of No.(2) Bureau of Special Operations Lieutenant General Than Tun Oo. Two other advisors are the Military Appointments General, Lieutenant General Lu Aye and the retired Rakhine State security minister Colonel Htein Lin.

The civilian advisers in addition to Dr. Salai (Andrew) Ngun Cung Lian are Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, Daw Yin Yin Oo and Daw Khin Oo Hlaing.

The three have expertise in legal and foreign affairs, and served in different roles under the administration of President U Thein Sein, the former chairman of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Daw Yin Yin Nwe, the former chief education advisor to the U Thein Sein government, is known to be a conservative. She is a geologist, who worked with UNICEF from 1991 to 2011. In August 2012 she was appointed to be a member of an Inquiry Commission, investigating the Rakhine State’s communal violence that same year.

Daw Yin Yin Oo worked as deputy director general of the foreign ministry of President U Thein Sein’s administration. She retired in 2016 before the NLD government took office. She is the daughter of late president Dr. Maung Maung, who ruled for a month, following the 1988 nationwide uprising.

Daw Khin Oo Hlaing is said to be an international criminal law expert.

Lt-gen Lu Aye was the commander of Northwestern Command and promoted to his current rank in August 2015, during the army chief reshuffle before the 2015 general election.

Colonel Htein Lin is the former Rakhine State security and border affairs minister until 2017. He then served as the adviser to the detained President U Win Myint on peace issues from April 2020 to the end of January.

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