Members of Myanmar’s shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG), have condemned its military ruler Min Aung Hlaing for taking the prime minister role in a caretaker (military) government. This move is reportedly an attempt to win government legitimacy and international recognition. Min Aung Hlaing made the announcement during a speech Sunday, six months after the army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in a coup and seized power.
Since the toppling of the democratic government, Myanmar’s economy has collapsed. AP News stated that alongside the persecution of protestors, the humanitarian crisis worsened in the past month as COVID-19 infections surged. Following the coup, a “provisional government” replaced the State Administration Council (SAC) and is chaired by Min Aung Hlaing, according to Reuters. “[T]he transition from a military council to a caretaker government is a reflection of the fact that they are preparing for an international diplomatic battle, trying to prove the fact that they are a government,” said Aung Myo Min, minister for human rights in the NUG.
The NUG formed in April, by members of Suu Kyi’s party and pro-democracy activists. Other major ethnic minority groups joined the NUG to strengthen their resistance and commit to a joint struggle against the army. AP News cited the difference between this government and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which formed after the military coup barred lawmakers from taking their seats. Veteran activist Min Ko Naing announced the NUG and Aung Suu Kyi as the state counsellor.
State Myawaddy television said the caretaker government was created to perform the country’s duties fast, easily, and effectively, despite dissent from civilians and the international community. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) focuses on initiating and encouraging diplomatic efforts. The ASEAN Minister met Monday to end violence and promote dialogue to end the crisis.
The caretaker government’s security forces are accused of killing at least 940 people while suppressing dissent since the coup, by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. The military stated that the number of protestors killed is far lower than reported and called the NUG a terrorist group.
International efforts to quell violence have included calling all countries to stop selling arms to Myanmar. The UN General Assembly condemned the use of lethal force and violence, as well as the crackdown of peaceful protests and civil societies. They have also called for the immediate and unconditional release of detainees and an end to restrictions on freedom of expression. The UN General Assembly said Myanmar’s military must meet these calls immediately and it will take action to enforce them.
The UN reports that 4,983 people have been arrested and around 870 protestors, bystanders, and other civilians were killed. Other international efforts to encourage peace include the No. 2 United States. diplomat Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaking with a representative of Myanmar’s government in exile. This is the first announced contact between a senior U.S. official and the shadow government.
Sherman spoke with Zin Mar Aung about efforts to return Myanmar to democracy. Their conversation detailed included American support of democracy and efforts to combat COVID-19 infections, which have overwhelmed the health care system. “[T]oday the General Assembly, as the voice of the entire international community, joins the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council in condemning the Myanmar military’s killing spree against its own people,” said Lawrence Moss, Senior UN Advocate for Amnesty International.