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Philippine activists deride Myanmar junta’s expulsion of Timor-Leste’s top diplomat; appeals anew to ASEAN to impose sanctions

August 30th, 2023  •  Author:   Initiatives for International Dialogue , Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition  •  4 minute read
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30 AUGUST 2023

Philippine-based solidarity and peacebuilding non-government institutions, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) today scorned the Myanmar military junta’s expulsion of Timor-Leste’s Chargé d’Affaires reportedly due to Timor-Leste government’s association with Myanmar’s legitimate government, the National Unity Government (NUG), which the junta tags as a terrorist organization.

The junta’s so-called Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on August 27 that the Timor-Leste’s Chargé d’Affaires had been told to leave Myanmar before September 1.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of IID and Convener of APSOC said, “The junta is first and foremost the illegal entity in Myanmar and they still have the temerity to expel a legitimate diplomat representing perhaps the most democratic country in the region. It is the junta that must be ousted as it continues to terrorize the peoples of Myanmar and violate human rights on a regular basis. The NUG is not a terrorist, the junta is.

Miclat added, “ASEAN must know by now that it can no longer treat the junta with kid’s gloves. Something really concrete must be done and it should start with discarding the myth of the Five-Point Consensus that they developed in response to the crisis, but with recognizing the National Unity Government as the sole legal entity representing the peoples of Myanmar in all its official affairs.”

Since the attempted military coup in February 2021 in Myanmar that resulted in a full-blown humanitarian crisis displacing around 1.5 million people, IID believes that it is time for ASEAN to impose concrete sanctions against the junta.

Timor-Leste invited an NUG senior official in July to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Xanana Gusmao as the new prime minister.

Miclat stressed, “ASEAN should not take the ongoing situation sitting down while the junta continues to run a bloody show. Timor-Leste adheres to the position of the international community for the restoration of democracy, peace and justice in Myanmar. The decision to expel Timor-Leste’s Chargé d’Affaires is unacceptable and merits the rage, if not, the guffaws of the international community.”

IID’s statement came in time for the 24th anniversary of the Popular Consultation (Referendum) of East Timor. On 30 August 1999, when the people of Timor-Leste cast their ballots in a United Nations–administered popular consultation. The referendum resulted in an overwhelming 78.5% vote for independence.

Miclat explained, “We continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste as they celebrate the 24th anniversary of the referendum. While the expulsion of Timor-Leste’s Chargé d’Affaires from Myanmar is despicable, it adds credence to Timor-Leste’s great commitment to democracy and justice, making the 24th anniversary of the independence referendum more valuable.”

Timor Leste is waiting in the wings to be accepted into ASEAN as a full member. But the new Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, has recently announced that Timor Leste will not join ASEAN until the Myanmar issue is resolved as Timor does not want to be in the same league with dictators and human rights violators.
Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta has meanwhile also said that upon Timor’s eventual joining of ASEAN, they will work with it in addressing critical human rights problems within the bloc.

Miclat concluded, “Timor-Leste knows the value of ‘paying-it-forward’, and this is precisely what they did in solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar that resulted in their diplomat’s expulsion. ASEAN must replicate Timor’s noble act instead and let the stubborn and brutal generals in Myanmar know that they cannot get off the hook with their deadly games. There is no way the junta can utilize any available legal spaces from ASEAN as it is a totally illegal entity by itself.” ###

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