BANGKOK: Myanmar’s junta today ordered the expulsion of East Timor’s top diplomat in the country over a meeting his government held with a banned shadow administration.
The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the military seized power in February 2021, ending a brief experiment with democracy and sparking violent clashes.
The military has designated the shadow administration known as the National Unity Government (NUG) — dominated by exiled lawmakers working overseas to overturn the coup — as a terror organisation.
Last month, East Timor’s president Jose Ramos-Horta met with NUG foreign minister Zin Mar Aung in the capital Dili.
On Sunday, Myanmar’s ministry of foreign affairs condemned the “irresponsible actions” of East Timor, ordering the country’s charge d’affaires in Yangon “to leave no later than 1 September 2023”.
The ministry said in a Facebook post that East Timor was “encouraging the terrorist group to further commit violations in Myanmar”.
East Timor condemned the expulsion order, reiterating in a statement “the importance of supporting all efforts for the return of democratic order in Myanmar”.
Dili also urged the junta to “respect human rights and seek a peaceful and constructive solution to the crisis”.
East Timor is due to become the eleventh member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
However, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said earlier this month the young democracy could reconsider its bid to join the Asean should the bloc fail to persuade Myanmar’s junta to end the conflict.
The grouping has made little progress since the coup in 2021, with the army largely ignoring a five-point deal aimed at ending the violence.
Asean has also been divided over how to engage with Myanmar’s military.
While the junta has been banned from high-level summits, Asean member Thailand has hosted informal talks with Myanmar’s foreign minister.
Linn Thant, an NUG representative based in Prague in the Czech Republic, condemned the junta’s decision and told AFP that there was no justification for the expulsion of the Timor East diplomat.
The whereabouts of the diplomat is currently unclear.