Beyond the Headlines: Myanmar civilian government warns of junta ‘exploitation’ of international engagement

International affairs

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and deputy chairperson of the NGO The Elders, held an online meeting with the deputy foreign minister of Myanmar’s publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) on April 27, according to the latter’s statement. The ex-UN chief’s meeting with the NUG’s Moe Zaw Oo came three days after he visited the country and met with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, as well as other regime ministers and former president Thein Sein. 

The NUG’s deputy minister raised concern over Ban Ki-moon’s recent trip, saying that “the junta may seek to exploit this visit for their own advantage” requesting that any future visits to Myanmar be made in consultation with important stakeholders, including the NUG. The foreign ministry representative also reportedly emphasised the junta’s lack of legitimacy to hold a future election and stressed the need for the international community to exert more coordinated pressure on and sanctions against the military council.

The two representatives reached an agreement “to establish a collaborative working relationship to discuss potential pathways towards resolving the ongoing crisis in Myanmar,” the statement said. 

Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Myanmar from April 23-24 was at the invitation of the Myanmar junta and the meetings were “exploratory,” said the official statement by The Elders, which was released one day after he had left the country. The purpose of the trip, according to the group, was “to find a path to an end to violence and establish a peaceful, democratic, inclusive and legitimate government.”

“I came to Myanmar to urge the military to adopt an immediate cessation of violence, and start constructive dialogue among all parties concerned,” Ban Ki-moon said in the statement. 

Military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said that Min Aung Hlaing had the opportunity to explain the situation in the country to Ban Ki-moon during their meeting, and to assert that international perceptions of Myanmar were “one-sided” due to biased coverage by certain media and organisations. 


In another statement on April 28, the health ministry of Myanmar’s civilian-led NUG also slammed the international community for not taking stronger action against the coup regime amid lethal airstrikes by its air force which have killed dozens of civilians, including women and children. The ministry referred to recent junta attacks targeting health facilities and community hospitals in the country during the month of April.

“… sanctions and words of condemnation from the international community have not deterred the military’s violence, indicating the need for stronger, timely and concerted actions from global leaders,” the statement said.


The Norwegian central bank, known as Norges Bank, recently excluded South Korea’s state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) and Indian gas firm GAIL from its US$1.4trillion wealth fund, citing ethical concerns over their ties to the Myanmar military. An official statement by Norges Bank Investment Management on April 27 said that the two oil and gas giants were named due to the “unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to serious violations of individuals’ rights in situations of war or conflict.” 

“The background is the companies’ business collaboration with an organization affiliated with the military in Myanmar,” it said. 

According to a Reuters article on the announcement, the Norwegian sovereign fund, formally called the Government Pension Fund Global and set up in 1996 to save petroleum revenue for future generations, owns around 1.5 percent of all globally listed shares. Norges Bank holds stakes in more than 9,200 companies globally through the wealth fund. At the end of last year, the fund held $5.5m in shares in KOGAS, representing 0.21 percent of the outstanding shares, according to the fund’s filings. Norges Bank held $70.2m in GAIL shares as of the same date, representing 0.92 percent of the stake in the company. 

The decision for exclusion was based on a recommendation from the fund’s Council on Ethics made in late November last year, which pointed out that KOGAS and GAIL (India) provided the Myanmar army with substantial income that could finance military operations and abuses through their partnerships with the junta’s Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

The MOGE partnership involves the offshore Shwe gas field, with each KOGAS and GAIL (India) owning an 8.5 percent stake in the venture, while Korea’s POSCO works as the operator of the project with a 51 percent stake. The other 17 percent is held by India’s ONGC Videsh. 

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