MEMBERS of the parliament from southeast Asia have condemned the Myanmar junta for expelling a Timor Leste senior diplomat for holding meetings with Myanmar’s opposition.
“We unequivocally condemn the expulsion of the Timorese diplomat by the illegal Myanmar junta and we stand in solidarity with Timor-Leste, who have clearly been targeted by the junta for their support of the Myanmar pro-democracy movement,” the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said in a statement.
Timor Leste is poised to join Asean as its 11th member. Asean has granted Timor Leste the “observer” status, the only country that can sit in all Asean meetings including Summit plenaries.
According to Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, East Timor has conducted engagements with Myanmar’s opposition umbrella organization, the National Unit Government.
The democratically-elected NUG was ousted when the junta seized power in 2021. The European Parliament has recognized NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar with Win Myint as President and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as state counsellor.
“The Myanmar junta has once again shown its pettiness and vindictiveness by bullying a country simply for having the temerity to openly engage with the democratically-elected National Unity Government. It is clear that the junta has no intention of participating in any dialogue on a peaceful, democratic, and inclusive resolution to the ongoing conflict in the country,” APHR Co-Chair and former Malaysian member of parliament Charles Santiago said.
“We call on other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond to follow Timor Leste’s example in taking a strong, public stance in supporting the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. The fact that one of the world’s youngest democracies, with a population of less than two million people, has boldly done what its much larger and purportedly more powerful neighbors have not, puts the international community to shame,” he added.
When pressed to comment on Myanmar expulsion of a Timorese diplomat, Philippine Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu said it is the prerogative of a sovereign state to declare a diplomat as persona non grata.”
But as far as we are concerned, the Five-Point Consensus calls for the engagement of all parties,” Espiritu said.
The Filipino diplomat was referring to the peace agreement reached among Asean leaders and junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on armed violence in Myanmar following the military takeover in 2021.
The Five-Point Consensus includes allowing Asean’s special envoy and delegation to visit Myanmar and meet with “all the parties concerned.”
It also called for the military junta to hold “constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.”
But the junta has yet to implement the agreement.
The United Nations estimate as many as 1 million people were displaced as a result of civil strife. Hundreds of people have been killed and many thousands arrested, with widespread allegations of arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture.
The bloc has barred Myanmar’s generals from joining ASEAN-hosted international summits until they demonstrate a commitment to implement the agreement.
Espiritu said the issue of Myanmar will be discussed during the upcoming Asean Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 5-7.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will attend the Summit plenary.
“As far as the Philippines and ASEAN is concerned, we are still hinging everything on the Five-Point Consensus. So, all efforts in ASEAN are in accordance with the Five-Point Consensus,” Espiritu said.
Manila “fully supports all the efforts” of Jakarta, which is the current chair of Asean, “in increasing engagement with all stakeholders, all the parties in the Myanmar issue to come up with a constructive dialogue in this regard.”
Last month, Asean foreign ministers stopped Thailand’s overtures to engage the junta and the opposition leader.
Espiritu said the foreign ministers insisted that all efforts should be “coordinated and done in concert” with Indonesia and Office of the Special Envoy of Indonesia.