A senior member of Myanmar's shadow civilian leadership, the National Unity Government, on Tuesday urged Japan to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Myanmar's military in coordination with ASEAN in a bid to end the junta's brutal rule.

Zin Mar Aung, the NUG's foreign minister, made the call in a meeting with Japanese lawmakers in Tokyo as an unprecedented offensive by ethnic minority groups in northeastern Myanmar in late October and ensuing attacks by insurgents in other border areas have posed the biggest challenge to the junta since it seized power in a 2021 coup.

Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of Myanmar's shadow civilian leadership, the National Unity Government, speaks in a meeting with Japanese lawmakers in Tokyo on Nov. 21, 2023. (Kyodo)

"Without dealing with the State Administration Council, Japan should establish diplomatic relations with the NUG, which represents the people of Myanmar," Zin Mar Aung said through an interpreter, in reference to the official name of the junta led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

"The European Union and the United States are imposing coordinated financial sanctions (on the junta and related entities), but no Asian countries are enforcing such measures," she told the meeting, which was open to the media. "If Asian countries enforce economic sanctions, it would put significant pressure on the junta."

Zin Mar Aung is on a 12-day visit to Japan through Nov. 28 for meetings with Myanmar residents, among other engagements. It is her first trip to to the country as the NUG foreign minister.

Her visit also comes before Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hosts leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-member grouping of which Myanmar is a member, next month for a special Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo.

Zin Mar Aung requested that Japan provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people in her conflict-hit country without involving the military, alluding to allegations that aid is diverted to the junta instead of reaching people in need.

"If Japan extends aid to internally displaced people through an organization run by the NUG and ethnic minority groups, it will immediately save many people from their sufferings," she said.

Since the Myanmar military detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and toppled her democratically elected government in the Feb. 1, 2021, coup, the junta has killed about 4,200 demonstrators and other citizens, leading to the displacement of some 2 million people, according to U.N. and other data.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict -- led by the United Nations and ASEAN -- have stalled, with the military refusing to engage with the NUG.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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