08/28/2023, 15.05
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Myanmar expels East Timor diplomat over government-in-exile meeting

by Steve Suwannarat

The military-ruled Southeast Asian country clashes with one of the few countries in the region that is openly critical after its democracy was crushed. This is a challenge for ASEAN as well, as the bloc has failed so far to propose real solutions to Myanmar’s civil war. Now East Timor is reconsidering its bid to join the regional body.

Dili (AsiaNews) – East Timor, which has been critical of Myanmar’s military since it took power in a coup on 1 February 2021, is now at the centre of a diplomatic row that once again raises questions about the inability of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to persuade Myanmar’s junta to stop the ongoing violence and open talks with pro-democracy forces over the country’s future.

Yesterday, Myanmar expelled East Timor’s chargé d'affaires after President Jose Ramos-Horta met in the East Timorese capital of Dili with Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of the National Unity Government (NUG), which includes mostly those members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) who avoided capture following the coup. President Htin Kyaw and State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyu were among the NLD political leaders detained at the time.

On Facebook, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned what it called East Timor’s “irresponsible actions”, which encourage “the terrorist group to further committing their violations in Myanmar”. For the ruling junta, the National Unity Government is a terrorist group.

East Timor quickly responded. In a statement, it reiterated “the importance of supporting all efforts for the return of democratic order in Myanmar”.

East Timor became independent about 20 years ago after a 30-year war against Indonesian rule. Many of its current political leaders are old guerrilla fighters.

Despite different  experiences and ideologies, its leaders have a very clear idea about what it means to fight for freedom.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said that his country might reconsider its bid to join ASEAN if the organisation fails to end Myanmar’s civil war.

Along with President Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister Gusmao led the fight to free East Timor and its people and has played a major role in governing its unstable democracy ever since.

The traditional policy of non-interference in the affairs of ASEAN member states has so far led the bloc to formulate only a weak five-point peace proposal, which has been disregarded by Myanmar’s military.

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See also
Ramos-Horta loses E Timor presidential election, Guterres and Ruak in runoff
Presidential elections: some candidates complain of irregularities as the country prepares for a two
Increasing calls for the prime minister's resignation
Ramos-Horta apologises to Indonesia, studies possible military ‘co-operation”
Xanana Gusmao is the new Prime Minister of East Timor


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