This really matters: Myanmar government-in-exile opens office in Canberra – NewsOpener

Members of the Australian Burmese community have gathered in the country’s capital to open a representative office for their country’s civilian shadow government.

The National Unity Government (NUG) was formed in May 2021, consisting of ousted political leaders from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and other opponents of the junta.

On Wednesday night, the Government of National Unity opened its representative office in Canberra, less than two kilometers from the official Myanmar embassy.

The representative of the Government of National Unity in Australia, Dr Tun Aung Shwe, said it was a momentous occasion.

“This is really important,” Dr. Choi told SBS News.

“Australia is a really important country for Myanmar. Since the 2011 revolution, it has been one of Myanmar’s first diplomatic relations.”

Australian Government of National Unity Representative Dr. Tun Aung Shwe (center) and Labor MP Peter Khalil at the embassy opening. Credit: Michelle Haywood Photography

But since the overthrow of Ms Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government 18 months ago, the question of Australia’s diplomatic relations with the country has come under increasing scrutiny.

Among those present at the opening ceremony in Canberra were members of the Australian Parliament from across the political divide.

The Green Party’s foreign affairs spokesman Gordon Steele-John called on the Australian government to recognize the Government of National Unity as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

“It is a great step forward in the history of democracy in Myanmar, and what is now required is for the government and the Liberal Party to follow the lead of the Green Party in recognizing the Government of National Unity as the legitimate government of Myanmar, and turn words of solidarity into words of solidarity,” Senator Steele John told SBS News at the ceremony.

Green Senator Gordon Steele-John attended the embassy opening.

Green Senator Gordon Steele-John speaks to SBS News at the inauguration of the National Unity Government’s embassy. Credit: Michelle Haywood Photography

The Australian government says it recognizes states, not governments.

However, Foreign Secretary Penny Wong’s spokesman said that “the foreign minister will continue to engage with representatives of the Government of National Unity” and that Australia’s engagement with the military regime is “necessarily limited”.

The foreign minister also issued a statement last week condemning the execution of four pro-democracy activists in the country.

The opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham echoed the sentiments of Senator Wong, who is in Cambodia for talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I wish Secretary Wong success in working with her ASEAN counterparts to make sure that maximum pressure is applied to the Myanmar regime, in terms of stopping such executions and working through many of our sensitive issues,” he said.

Among the Australian Burmese at the National Unity Government office on Wednesday was Tsar Mint, who had traveled from Adelaide to attend the ceremony.

Australian Burmese Tyzar Myint.

Tizar Mint traveled from Adelaide to attend the ceremony at the new embassy. Source: SBS News

Myint described growing up in a rebel military camp during the dictatorship of the 1980s, when the country was previously under the rule of a military junta.

The 2021 coup brought back those memories for him.

“When I first saw it, when it happened, I was in shock,” he told SBS News.

“There were sleepless nights, and even at work I couldn’t function properly because my mind was there.”

But for Mr. Myint and many like him at the party, the representative office brought a renewed sense of hope.

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