A number of Myanmar’s neighbors have urged its new military government to release detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and stop using lethal force against peaceful protesters protesting the army’s takeover last month .
Separate appeals made on Tuesday by some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) came as the bloc, in a statement by the president after a special meeting with a representative of the military authorities, called “All parties” in Myanmar to “abstain”. to provoke new violence ”.
It came as Burmese police in the northwestern town of Kale again opened fire to disperse crowds after an anti-coup protest. Several people were injured, according to reports citing witnesses.
The military justified the February 1 coup by saying that its complaints of fraud in the November election that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide were ignored. The electoral commission said the vote was fair.
ASEAN’s 10-member bloc virtual talks came two days after the bloodiest day of unrest since the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. At least 21 people have been killed since the coup and activists say more than 1,100 people have been arrested, including six journalists.
ASEAN is made up of Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
Indonesia’s foreign minister, who has spurred a regional diplomatic effort, urged Myanmar to “open its doors” to the ASEAN bloc to resolve the escalating tension, but said he would not. couldn’t do much if he didn’t.
Retno Marsudi called for the release of political detainees and the restoration of democracy, while pledging that ASEAN countries would not break their promise not to interfere in each other’s affairs.
“Getting democracy back on track must be continued,” Retno said. “Indonesia stresses that the will, interest and voice of the people of Myanmar must be respected.”
The Malaysian and Philippine foreign ministers also called for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and an end to the violence.
In an apparent concession to the military government, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein suggested that ASEAN, which counts Myanmar as a member, could “help close the gaps seen in the last elections.”
Political stability in member states is essential for achieving peace #ASEAN community. We urged all parties to seek a solution through constructive reconciliation in the interests of #Myanmar people. ASEAN stands ready to assist in a positive and constructive manner.https://t.co/v6X7Yiq0cB pic.twitter.com/gIkBbeG0ai
– ASEAN (@ASEAN) March 2, 2021
But some countries were less adamant, and a joint statement from the group said “all sides” should refrain from inciting violence and that ASEAN was ready to help.
“We also called on all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution, through constructive dialogue,” the statement said.
He also said ministers “heard calls” for the release of political prisoners and for the UN special envoy to Myanmar to play a mediating role, without identifying who made the proposals.
But the bloc’s effort to engage with the Myanmar military has been criticized by supporters of democracy, with a committee of dismissed Myanmar lawmakers declaring the military government a “terrorist” group and claiming the ASEAN’s commitment would give it legitimacy.
Sa Sa, a prominent member of the committee who was anointed as its representative at the UN, said ASEAN should not have any dealings with “this regime run by the illegitimate military.”
The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), one of the main protest voices in Myanmar, said ASEAN should not have a dialogue with the military government.
“We understand the importance of dialogue. But the junta has abused ASEAN since 1997 [the year Myanmar joined]The CDM said in a tweet.
Myanmar’s own representative to the UN denounced the coup last week and after the military government announced he had been sacked, he formally claimed the status of a legitimate representative, according to letters seen by them. media organizations.
The coup interrupted Myanmar’s tentative steps toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule ended in 2011, and resulted in condemnation and sanctions from the United States and other Western countries.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who in a BBC interview described the coup as a “tragic” setback for Myanmar, said the sanctions would not affect the military government but would hurt the people and that the way forward was to free Aung San Suu Kyi. and find a solution.
“Using lethal force against civilians and unarmed protesters, I think that’s just not acceptable. It is disastrous not only at the international level, but also at the national level, ”he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of protesters, many wearing hard hats and makeshift shields, gathered behind barricades in different parts of Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, to chant slogans before police did intervenes, firing stun grenades.
“They were acting like they were in a war zone,” a teacher at the protest, who declined to be identified, said of police.
State television MRTV said the crowds were incited by social media by illegal organizations and caused instability. He said 12 “rioters” had been arrested in Yangon.
After the use of force by security agents in the streets, people protested from their balconies after dark in Yangon, chanting “the revolution must succeed.”
The head of the military government, General Min Aung Hlaing, pledged to hold new elections and hand over power to the winner, but gave no deadline.