Malaysia Under Fire After Ambassador Meets With Myanmar Junta Minister
Malaysia is coming under criticism after its ambassador to Myanmar met with a member of the military junta government.
The meeting between ambassador Zahairi Baharim (photo, left) and the junta's Electricity and Energy Minister Aung Than Oo reportedly occurred yesterday.
It is unclear what was discussed at the meeting.
Clips of the meeting aired on a TV station owned by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military), snapshots of which were tweeted by Free Rohingya Coalition co-founder Ro Nay San Lwin, have since gone viral.
According to Ro Nay, Zahairi is the first Asean ambassador to have a meeting with the junta.
However, it should be noted that representatives from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam were present at a Tatmadaw parade in the Myanmar capital two weeks ago.
Southeast Asia political analyst Bridget Welsh said Zahairi's meeting with Oo gave legitimacy to the junta.
"This endorsement of the government engaged in crimes against humanity conflicts with other statements by Malaysian leaders and speaks to a worrying shift in Asean," she tweeted.
A spokesperson for the Milk Tea Alliance Network for Malaysia likewise told Malaysiakini that the meeting legitimised the junta and was also confusing.
"It's confusing as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been playing a leading role with Brunei to organise Asean conversations around the killings in Myanmar, MPs have called for the removal of Myanmar's Asean membership and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has condemned the coup - all good things but (the ambassador's meeting) confuses things," the spokesperson added.
The Milk Tea Alliance is a loose coalition of pro-democracy activists from across Southeast Asia and East Asia that is slowly expanding across the world.
The group's Malaysia spokesperson said they hoped that there would be a reasonable explanation over the meeting.
"We hope to receive an explanation and we give the benefit of the doubt that there is a reasonable explanation, for example, someone has pointed out that Petronas has halted its work in Myanmar," they said.
The spokesperson added that Putrajaya should seek to legitimise the Myanmar government in exile and take a strong stance against the junta.
Meanwhile, former ambassador Dennis Ignatius said it was time for Malaysia and Asean to deliver an ultimatum to the junta to restore Myanmar's democratically-elected government - or be expelled from Asean.
"It is simply scandalous that Malaysia and other Asean countries have not come out more forcefully against Myanmar’s military regime.
"How many more lives have to be lost before Asean finds the courage and the moral conscience to act?
"And if Asean does not have the courage of its convictions to do so, Malaysia must act alone and immediately break off diplomatic relations with Myanmar," he told Malaysiakini.
He added that ending diplomatic ties with the junta would be the least Malaysia could do for the long-suffering of Myanmar's people.
Malaysiakini has contacted Hishammuddin for comment. - Mkini
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