Top NUG diplomat in Washington as ASEAN summit begins

Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister for the civilian government in exile. Photo: National Unity Government
Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister for the civilian government in exile. Photo: National Unity Government

The National Unity Government’s Foreign Minister Zin Mar Aung is in Washington and will meet on the sidelines with ASEAN and U.S. government leaders, the government-in-exile’s ambassador to ASEAN said last night.

Although it was unclear whether Zin Mar Aung was invited to the special two-day ASEAN Summit that started today and is being chaired by President Joe Biden. But unity government reps said Aung will meet with U.S. State Department officials and some Congressional lawmakers during her visit, according to Radio Free Asia. 

Myanmar’s ruling junta is not represented at the summit. After it declined an invitation to send a nonpolitical representative, the United States was reported to be considering setting out an empty seat to highlight its opposition to the 2021 coup d’etat. 

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said they were following the example set by ASEAN, which last year barred coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing from attending.

“We will follow ASEAN’s precedent for the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit,” Ned Price said in a tweet, “because the regime has demonstrably failed to make progress on ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus and it continues to escalate its violence, its repression against the people of Burma.”

Biden has said that he will meet separately with each of the ASEAN leaders attending the summit.

Speaking to reporters in Washington yesterday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he will meet with Zin Mar Aung on Saturday, adding that he wanted to tell the shadow foreign minister that the Malaysian government and people have always supported the people of Myanmar and want to assist the NUG government, either indirectly or informally. 

In addition, he also wants to listen to opinions from Zin Mar Aung and messages in particular from the people of Myanmar on how they should move forward, Saifuddin added, urging other ASEAN leaders to launch a dialogue with the government in exile.

“I thought the ASEAN special envoy, in his concluding remarks – though I cannot speak on his behalf – … in some ways welcomed the idea of engaging the NUG and the [National Unity Consultative Council] and the other stakeholders,” Saifuddin tweeted.

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