Malaysia’s top diplomat meets Myanmar anti-junta counterpart on sidelines of US-Asean summit
- NUG Foreign Minister Zin Mar Aung said she had a productive meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, discussing the dire situation in Myanmar
- It marked the first publicly acknowledged time a ministerial-level official from Asean has had face-to-face talks with a National Unity Government counterpart
The Saturday meeting in Washington was the first publicly acknowledged occasion when a ministerial-level official from one of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has had face-to-face talks with a counterpart in Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government.
NUG Foreign Minister Zin Mar Aung said on Twitter her “productive meeting” with Saifuddin discussed “the dire situation in Myanmar, and how the NUG and Malaysia can work together to restore peace and democracy in Myanmar, including humanitarian assistance and support for the Myanmar refugees.”
Saturday’s meeting is a minor breakthrough for the NUG, which has sought without success international diplomatic recognition. It was established by elected lawmakers who were denied their seats by the army takeover, considers itself the country’s legitimate government and has widespread public support. The country’s military leaders, however, have officially designated it an outlawed terrorist organisation and refuse to engage with it.
Saifuddin tweeted on Saturday that he met with Zin Mar Aung “to express Malaysia’s support and solidarity with the people of Myanmar and stands ready to work towards restoring peace and democracy in Myanmar.
They discussed challenges including “humanitarian assistance, technical training and education for the Myanmar refugees,” he added.
The US maintains diplomatic relations with Myanmar but has diplomatic and economic sanctions against its military leaders. The head of the military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, was not invited to the Washington summit.
Zin Mar Aung met last week with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Sherman “underscored robust US support for the people of Burma in the face of the regime’s brutal crackdown and pledged to continue providing support to all those working peacefully toward the restoration of Burma’s path to inclusive democracy.”
US officials refer to Myanmar by its old name of Burma, which was changed by a previous military government.