News ID: 302439
Published: 0143 GMT April 24, 2021

ASEAN urges Myanmar coup leaders to end violence, restore democracy

ASEAN urges Myanmar coup leaders to end violence, restore democracy

Myanmar's Military Chief Min Aung Hlaing (L) is greeted by Indonesian officials upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, on April 24, 2021.

Myanmar's military must restore democracy and stop committing violence against citizens, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after crisis talks with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and Southeast Asian leaders Saturday.

The strongly worded statement followed a meeting in Jakarta of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which marked the senior Myanmar general's first foreign trip since security forces staged a coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in early February, AFP reported.

Min Aung Hlaing has become the focus of international outrage over the coup and a subsequent crackdown on dissent that has left more than 700 dead.

"The first requested commitment is for the Myanmar military to stop the use of violence and that all parties there at the same time must refrain so that tensions can be reduced," Widodo said Saturday.

"The violence must be stopped and democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be restored."

He also called for the release of political prisoners and for a special envoy to be allowed into the country to "push for dialogue".

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, meanwhile, called on the military to release Myanmar's ousted president, as well as democracy icon Suu Kyi who is under house arrest.

Saturday's meeting followed mass protests which have been met by a brutal crackdown that has left blood on the streets.

An estimated 250,000 people have been displaced, according to a UN envoy, with Myanmar's democratically elected top leaders in hiding or under house arrest.

Also at the weekend meeting was the Sultan of Brunei, the current chair of ASEAN, as well as leaders and foreign ministers from most of the 10-country group, including Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Laos.

Small protests outside the bloc's Jakarta headquarters were dispersed by security personnel.

In Myanmar, protesters continued to take to the streets Saturday, including in northern Kachin state, where demonstrators wore blue shirts to symbolize detainees.

The general's involvement in the Jakarta talks has angered activists, human rights groups and a shadow government of ousted Myanmar lawmakers, which was not invited to the gathering.

"Meetings that contribute to a solution to the deepening crisis in Myanmar are welcome," the latter said in a statement.

"(But) meetings that exclude the people of Myanmar but include murderer-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing... are unlikely to be helpful."

The lawmakers called on the junta to "stop murdering civilians", release more than 3,000 political prisoners and return power to the country's democratically elected government.

"The crisis initiated by a murderous and unrepentant Myanmar military has engulfed the country, and will cause severe aftershocks – humanitarian and more – for the entire region," rights group Amnesty International said ahead of the meeting.

There have also been calls for the regional bloc to expel Myanmar.

But ASEAN generally takes a hands-off approach to members' internal affairs.




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