Despite gaining widespread support among the people of Myanmar, the newly formed National Unity Government (NUG) is struggling to gain international recognition as it takes on the junta, overcoming a setback dealt by the 10-member ASEAN’s welcome of military leader Min Aung Hlaing last weekend.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of lawmakers ousted in the Feb. 1 coup, three months after winning elections, formed the NUG on Apr. 16. The 26-member parallel government includes 13 representatives of ethnic parties and eight women, and many of the officials are elected lawmakers.
Deposed State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were named leaders of the NUG, although they both are under house arrest and face various charges brought against them by the junta.
Susanna Hla Hla Soe, the NUG’s minister for women, youth, and children’s affairs, has urged the leaders of countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to recognize Myanmar’s parallel government, instead of the military regime as a legitimate government of Myanmar.
“Please, the ASEAN member states, must not recognize the coup,” she said during a virtual press conference held on Apr. 22 by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the Altsean-Burma (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma) NGO advocacy group.
“Please recognize and hear the cry of Myanmar’s people who are longing for democracy, equality, unity, prosperity by collaboration, supporting, or recognizing the National Unity Government of Myanmar,” she said.
NUG officials say that they constitute the legitimate authority of Myanmar and have called for international recognition.
They also had insisted — to no avail — that NUG representatives be invited to attend last weekend’s special ASEAN meeting on the crisis in Myanmar in place of junta ruler Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who oversees the country’s armed forces and was sanctioned for human rights abuses long before the latest coup.
Despite criticisms from NUG and human rights groups, Min Aung Hlaing attended the ASEAN meeting during which leaders issued a “five-point consensus” calling for an immediate end to the violence in Myanmar, constructive dialogue among all parties to seek a peaceful solution, a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, the provision of humanitarian assistance through ASEAN, and a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet with the concerned parties.
Cooperation over recognition
The ASEAN consensus did not include the release of political prisoners as Malaysia’s president and Indonesia’s prime minister had demanded in their speeches during Saturday’s three-hour summit. The proviso was included in a draft a day before the meeting, but left out of the final version, Reuters reported.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based rights group, said that as of Tuesday, 755 people had been killed in the violence in Myanmar since Feb. 1, while 4,496 people had been arrested.
While political observers in Myanmar viewed Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance at the meeting and his inclusion in the consensus as a blow to the NUG’s legitimacy, Dr. Sasa, NUG’s minister of international cooperation and government spokesman, welcomed the five-point consensus.
“We welcome the encouraging news that ASEAN leaders have reached consensus that the military violence in Myanmar must stop and political prisoners be released,” he said last weekend. “This is what the National Unity Government has been calling for.”
During an interview with RFA the previous day, the NUG spokesman said that international recognition of Myanmar’s parallel government could be measured by the level of cooperation it is starting to enjoy.
“In terms of recognition, the public announcements are not important,” he said. “Instead, you should look for the level of collaboration the countries have with the NUG government. For example, the more collaboration the U.S. government has with us, the higher degree of recognition we’ll have.”
So far, no country or government has publicly announced its recognition of the NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar.
The UK government, however, has invited NUG officials to attend the upcoming G7 summit on June 11-13 in Cornwall.
“Isn’t this a kind of recognition?” Dr. Sasa said about the invitation, after holding a videoconference with Nigel Adams, the UK’s minister for Asia, on April 20.
“During the meeting with the UK minister, he called for the withdrawal of the military coup,” Dr. Sasa said. “So, I want to say that the definition of recognition should come from the level of collaboration undertaken.”
Adams also stressed that the UK would continue calling for the military regime to respect the NUG and to ensure a return to democracy, according to a post on the Facebook page of the British Embassy in Yangon.
The UK, European Union, and United States have sanctioned Myanmar military leaders responsible for the coup and their business interests.
U.S. senators take NUG’s advice
On Tuesday in Washington, a group of U.S. senators called on the Biden administration to stop money from flowing from American businesses to the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a major source of revenue for the military, and to freeze all foreign currency revenues and foreign exchange reserves held in state accounts outside of the country.
“Our request to cut off revenue to the MOGE echoes the clear call from over 440 civil society organizations in Burma and representatives of the movement to form a National Unity Government, who have asked for international assistance in cutting off revenue flows to the military regime,” said the senators in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Instead of paying MOGE, we propose that the joint ventures involving multinational oil and gas companies pay revenue into a trust or protected account which is either held until such time as Burma has a legitimate and democratically-elected government or used for humanitarian purposes,” the lawmakers added.
RFA queries of the foreign affairs departments of the U.S., EU, UK, and Australia about the possibility of their governments recognizing the NUG’s legitimacy elicited positive words about the parallel government but no clear-cut replies.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an email response that the U.S. commends the CRPH’s efforts to work in the interest of the Myanmar people, but stopped short of recognizing the NUG’s legitimacy.
“We understand that the CRPH’s Federal Democracy Charter aims to espouse democratic principles, including separation of powers, and human rights, including for members of ethnic minority groups,” the statement said.
“We appreciate that this effort has brought together people from a wide range of groups across Burma, including members of ethnic minority groups,” it said. “We support an inclusive vision for Burma in which all people are represented and voices are heard.”
Nabila Massrali, an EU spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also refrained from an outright acknowledgement of the NUG.
“Clearly this is an important development, since it establishes a body that could play an important role in devising a solution to the current crisis,” she said in an email response. “The EU is already engaging with the National Unity Government.”
Tun Myint, a Myanmar associate professor of political science at Carleton College in Minnesota, said international recognition of the NUG could lead to positive developments in his home country.
“If the NUG gets international recognition, then there would be divisions within the military leadership, and some of the hard-line leaders would be eliminated,” he said. “This could lead to positive developments.”
“But on the other hand, if the military is mindlessly stubborn about continuing to avoid negotiations, then it could lead to bloodshed,” he said. “It could lead to a full-blown civil war.”
Source: Radio Free Asia