Suu Kyi’s party to form ‘interim government’ to rival Myanmar junta

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party plans to form an “interim government” to rival the country’s military junta and is seeking official recognition for the new body from the US, UK and UN.

Sa Sa, an official who has been appointed as the envoy of Myanmar’s disbanded parliament to the UN, outlined the plans in a video interview with the Financial Times.

He accused other south-east Asian countries of “not standing with the people in Myanmar” after Thai and Indonesian officials this week met a representative of the junta that ousted the civilian government in a coup this month. 

“Good neighbours should not play games with military coup leaders who are holding smoking guns,” Sa Sa said. “They should not hold any dialogue unless they release our elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.” 

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His remarks point to an increasingly serious effort by the remnants of Myanmar’s toppled government to set up structures to rival Min Aung Hlaing’s junta and engage with the international community. 

However, they will face serious challenges from Myanmar’s military and shifting diplomatic realities as its Asian neighbours begin making contact with the junta.

On Friday, the new regime, which arrested most of the NLD’s senior leaders and seized power on February 1, officially annulled the results of an election in November in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party scored an overwhelming victory.

Security forces, facing nationwide protests and strikes, appeared to be escalating their crackdown on dissent and fired at protesters in Yangon and Mandalay.

But later on Friday at the UN, the protest movement received a powerful and startling endorsement when Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s official ambassador to the world, body denounced the coup in a speech to the General Assembly. He pledged loyalty to Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government and urged the world to “use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military”.

“It is crystal clear that we do not want to go back to the system we were in before,” he said, raising three fingers at the end of his speech in a salute used by democracy protesters in Myanmar and in neighbouring Thailand. 

During the week of the coup, NLD MPs who avoided arrest set up a Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — the ousted parliament, and held their own swearing-in ceremony.

The CRPH on Tuesday nominated Sa Sa, a medical doctor and philanthropist, as its UN envoy and Htin Lin Aung, a former political prisoner based in Maryland, US, as its international relations representative.

While most of the NLD’s MPs are now either under arrest or “on the run”, Sa Sa said, the CRPH still planned to take the risk of setting up a temporary government inside the country “for the sake of the people of Myanmar”.

Sa Sa with villagers in Myanmar before he was forced to leave. Following the coup, he says his job will be ‘to make sure all the free world and the democratic world stays with us’ © Health & Hope

“We will be working very closely with the international community, and work with China and India,” he said. “It’s better for them to have a stable neighbour than an unstable one.” 

The official declined to say where he was speaking from for safety reasons, except to say it was outside Myanmar, but “very close”. 

While the US and some other western countries have condemned the coup and announced sanctions against the generals, Myanmar’s Asian neighbours, who have closer economic ties, have been more guarded in their rhetoric and actions, as with past military regimes. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the 10-member regional grouping, is positioning itself to mediate, with Indonesia taking a leading role.

Wunna Maung Lwin, the junta’s foreign minister, on Wednesday flew to Thailand to meet Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, himself a former coup leader. Retno Masudi, Indonesia’s foreign minister, also spoke briefly with the junta official at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, after which she said she expressed concerns for “the safety and wellbeing of the people of Myanmar”. 

Reports of the preliminary diplomatic overtures infuriated protesters in Yangon who demonstrated outside Indonesia’s embassy this week. 

“We don’t want any Asean or any foreign country to deal with the coup leaders right now,” Sa Sa said. “They should work with us.” 

Sa Sa, whose name, given by his grandmother means “higher higher”, is a Christian and member of Myanmar’s Chin ethnic minority in a majority Buddhist and ethnic Burmese country.

He was on track for a senior position in government. But after the coup, he said his job would be “to make sure all the free world and the democratic world stays with us”. 

“Our actions today will be history tomorrow,” he said.

Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

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