As deputy minister of international cooperation for Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), David Gum Awng is at the forefront of negotiations and holding together a coalition of ethnic militias that are opposed to the military takeover of his country.
Gum Awng met with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt along Thailand’s northern frontier, where he spoke about the future of the NUG and its armed wing the Peoples Defense Force (PDF), the low points in the struggle against the junta, and the importance of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s tarnished image, he says the Nobel laureate remains extremely popular within Myanmar, particularly among the youth, and as a figurehead within the broader movement, given that the NUG was largely formed out of her National League for Democracy.
He was also optimistic about the role of ASEAN and was diplomatic about the bloc’s failures in opening up talks with the NUG after the junta led by Senior Gen. Aung Min Hlaing seized power in February 2021, saying this had improved with Indonesia as chair over the past year.
Gum Awng singled out Timor-Leste, scheduled to formally join ASEAN shortly, for its strong stance that resulted in the expulsion of its charge d’affaires from Dili’s embassy in Yangon, who was ordered to leave Myanmar by September 1.
But he says ASEAN also needs to fall in line with Western countries, which have imposed financial sanctions, and take further actions with regard to the sale of arms and aviation fuel, required by the air force to stage bombing runs over rebel-held territory.