Malaysia says Southeast Asian nations must engage with NUG, as UN Security Council prepares for debate on new resolution to end violence.
Southeast Asian nations must take a more “inclusive” approach to dealing with the violent crisis caused by Myanmar’s military coup and have a clear “endgame” in mind, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has said.
Sitting alongside representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) at a Monday press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Saifuddin said it was necessary for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak to “all stakeholders” in its efforts to end the crisis.
Although ASEAN has barred the generals from its major summits, Saifuddin is currently the only foreign minister from the 10-member grouping to have met the NUG.
“There should be an inclusive and fair consultation with all stakeholders in Myanmar, including the NUG and NUCC. Then there should be a framework with a clear endgame, which includes a return to democracy in Myanmar,” Saifuddin said, referring to the government established by the elected politicians removed in the coup, and the National Unity Consultative Council, which includes the NUG, elected politicians, ethnic political parties and armed groups, and civil society.
“The Myanmar people deserve to have their true representatives at the table where regional decisions are being made,” said NUG spokesperson Htin Linn Aung, who appeared alongside Saifuddin.
Myanmar was plunged into crisis in February 2021, when the military detained elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power. It has cracked down hard on any opposition, describing civilian and ethnic armed groups fighting against its rule as “terrorists” and executing four political prisoners in July.
The military has effectively ignored an ASEAN-brokered five-point framework that was supposed to end the violence, and Saifuddin said the organisation, whose leaders are due to meet in two months, needed to decide whether the plan was “still relevant” or whether “it should be replaced with something better”.
“By the time we meet in November, we must ask that hard question and we must have the answer during that time,” he said.
The press conference came amid reports that at least 13 people were killed, seven of them children, after army helicopters attacked a school in a monastery complex in central Myanmar.
“They kept shooting into the compound from the air for an hour,” school administrator Mar Mar told the Associated Press news agency. ”They didn’t stop even for one minute. All we could do at that time was chant Buddhist mantras.”
The NUG accused the military of “targeted attacks” on schools, and called for the release of 20 students and teachers it said had been arrested following the air raids.
Nearly 2,300 people have been killed by the military since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been tracking the crackdown.
Save the Children says there were some 190 documented violent attacks on schools after the 2021 coup, compared with 10 the year before.
Amid the continuing attacks, the UN Security Council is due to consider a United Kingdom-drafted resolution — circulated on Friday — that would demand an end to all violence in Myanmar, call for an immediate end to the transfer of arms to Myanmar and threaten UN sanctions.
It would also call on the military to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, implement the ASEAN peace plan and allow for a democratic transition.
To be adopted, the resolution would need at least nine votes in favour and for none of the five permanent members to exercise their veto. Russia, which has a veto, has continued to show its support for the military with President Vladimir Putin meeting army chief Min Aung Hlaing earlier this month.