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Aung San Suu Kyi supporters unveil Myanmar ‘national unity government’

Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters have unveiled a “national unity government” for Myanmar that will seek foreign aid and diplomatic recognition as they rally resistance to the military coup.

The announcement was made on Friday by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, formed by MPs from the deposed leader’s National League for Democracy party who went into hiding or exile after General Min Aung Hlaing seized power on February 1.

The parallel government will include representatives of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups in senior roles.

“As leaders, we will serve and honour all as brothers and sisters regardless of their race, or religion, or their community of origin or their walk of life,” said Sasa, the unity government’s minister of international co-operation.

“All will have a vitally important role to play in the great cause of liberating our nation from the scourge of this murderous military junta, and all will have equal rights as citizens of Myanmar.” 

The CRPH confirmed Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who are both under arrest and facing criminal charges, in their current roles. 

Duwa Lashi La, who is from Myanmar’s Kachin minority, will serve as acting president. Mahn Win Khaing Than, an ethnic Karen former Speaker of the upper house of parliament, will serve as the shadow government’s prime minister.

Sasa said the national unity government would “work on bringing all ethnic nationalities” into its ranks. “We will deliver justice for our Rohingya brothers, sisters and for all,” he added, a reference to the Muslim minority that suffered intense repression and a bloody military crackdown in 2017.

People in Myanmar opposing the coup in mass demonstrations and general strikes, many of them young, have described their movement as a “spring revolution”. Many have called for a “federal democracy” with more inclusive institutions than the ones that prevailed during former military regimes and Suu Kyi’s sole term. 

However, the formation of the civilian unity government coincides with escalating violence by the junta, a rapidly deteriorating economy and a widening of the conflict into the Karen and Kachin states,

The emergence of the parallel government will also present the international community with difficult and legally complex choices over how and whether to engage with its representatives. 

No country has formally recognised the junta as the country’s legitimate government and several countries have suspended aid since the coup. Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s UN representative, broke with the junta in February and pledged loyalty to the CRPH, and he still represents the country at the world body.

However, the junta sacked Kyaw Zwar Minn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK, and locked him out of the embassy after he called for the release of the country’s arrested leaders.

“Now that this important step of a national unity government has been taken, there is every reason for governments to look at how they can work with it in the interest of bilateral relations and in the interest of the people of Myanmar,” said Laetitia van den Assum, a former Dutch ambassador to Myanmar.

When asked at an online press conference about how international recognition of the parallel government might work, Sasa cited the example of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom several countries recognised as the country’s president after Nicolás Maduro won the controversial 2018 election.

“The challenges are many, but we have the mandate of the people of Myanmar, which is most important,” he said.

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