Malaysia’s foreign minister has, in a tweet, admitted meeting “informally” with the National Unity Government’s (NUG) foreign minister, Zin Mar Aung, and the president of the NUCC, making Malaysia the first ASEAN nation to openly acknowledge contact with the groups.
Saifuddin Abdullah said that he had met the pair in a virtual meet held before last February’s ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat.
The announcement comes as ASEAN comes under fire from rights groups and activists for failing to take a harder line against the junta’s non-compliance with the terms of the bloc’s Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar.
The foreign minister was reacting to a letter published by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights which called on ASEAN representatives to finally engage with Burma’s parallel government. The group had suggested ASEAN suspend Myanmar from the bloc whilst hitting coup leaders with sanctions and regional travel bans.
Abdullah, long seen as sympathetic to the Burmese resistance, said in October that he would be open to talks with the NUG if the military continued to refuse to cooperate with ASEAN in solving the country’s crisis.
A move towards negotiations with the NUG could prove to be a pivotal moment in Burma’s Spring Revolution, coming as both the NUG and the military ramp up their claims to power and legitimacy.
The parallel government last week announced that it believed itself to hold de facto administrative control over almost half of Burma’s territory. The group also claimed that its defense ministry had found a reliable source of factory produced arms to help it launch a new “offensive” war against the military in time for monsoon season.