6 June 2024

Myanmar’s shadow government welcomes efforts by ASEAN chair Indonesia to kickstart peace talks in the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation but is deeply distrustful of the junta that took power in a 2021 coup, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) holding a summit in Indonesia have called for an immediate end to hostilities in military-ruled Myanmar, pushing for urgent dialogue and aid delivery.

“The biggest obstacle to peace talks is the military junta,” said Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s shadow administration, known as the National Unity Government.

Kyaw Zaw said the junta was trying to mislead the international community, pointing to its failure to implement a five-point peace “consensus” agreed by its top general with ASEAN months after the coup sparked widespread unrest.

“The junta never keeps its promises,” Kyaw Zaw added. A junta spokesperson did not answer telephone calls to seek comment.

The 2021 coup, which ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, upended a decade of tentative democratic reform. It was followed by a bloody crackdown on protests, giving rise to an armed struggle.

The military regime is under pressure as resistance fighters, alongside ethnic armed groups, continue to battle junta troops.

In retaliation, the military has intensified attacks and air strikes, as it seeks to consolidate power ahead of a planned election.

On Wednesday, a junta-controlled newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar, carried a statement inviting resistance fighters to return to the “legal fold” and offering cash rewards to those who brought back weapons.

For months, Indonesia has been quietly engaging key stakeholders in Myanmar’s conflict, besides neighbours China, India and Thailand, in an effort to revive the peace process.

Since late 2021, ASEAN has banned the junta from attending its high-level meetings.