Australian officials attend opening of Myanmar 'representative office' in Canberra for shadow govt


Senior Australian foreign affairs officials are set to attend the opening of a new "representative office" for Myanmar's shadow civilian government in Canberra next week, in a sign the Albanese Government is increasingly willing to build political links with the military regime's opponents.

Myanmar's National Unity Government (NUG) has announced it will open its own diplomatic mission in a rented house in the inner Canberra suburb of Deakin, around 2 kilometres from Myanmar's official embassy in Yarralumla.

The NUG's representative to Australia, Dr Tun-Aung Shwe, told the ABC that supporters in the Myanmar community had donated furniture and equipment for the diplomatic mission, as well as raised money to pay the rent.

He plans to work there full-time, with the help of several part-time volunteer staffers.

"People say the NUG is just a government 'in the air.' But this office will send a signal that we are not just an organisation in the air — we are physically present in the capital in Australia," he said.

Dr Shwe said that, while Foreign Minister Penny Wong had declined to attend next week's opening because she was travelling, several Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials had accepted the invitation.

"It is a great honour to me."

Dr Shwe also flagged that senior NUG members may soon travel to Australia to hold meetings with officials, and that they'd use the new representative office as a base for those visits.

The NUG has been pressing the international community to recognise it as the country's legitimate government instead of the junta, which seized power in an illegal coup early last year.

Only one country — the Czech Republic — has so far done so, although last year the European Parliament also voted to extend recognition to the NUG.

The Australian government maintains that it recognises states rather than governments.

It also maintains a substantial diplomatic presence in Myanmar, although it has effectively downgraded ties, with Australia's new head of mission, Angela Corcoran, declining to present her credentials to the junta.

Australia has been keen to maintain communication links with the military junta, in part because it wants to continue to press the regime to free imprisoned Australian economist and Aung San Suu Kyi adviser Sean Turnell.

But the Foreign Minister Penny Wong has indicated the new government was likely to impose new sanctions on senior members of the military regime.

She has also flagged last month that she'd be willing to continue meeting with National Unity Government representatives now that she holds office — a step that former Foreign Minister Marise Payne never took.