The final statement of ASEAN leaders at the end of Saturday’s (Apr. 24) summit on the Myanmar crisis did not mention freeing political prisoners and did not contain a firm call for their release, when a draft statement circulating the day before the meeting included the release of political prisoners as one of its “consensus” points, said sources familiar with the document.
The absence of a strong position on the issue caused dismay among human rights activists and opponents of the coup, fuelling criticism by them that the meeting had achieved little in the way of reining in the country’s military leaders.
At the end of the ASEAN summit held to resolve the situation in Myanmar, a consensus was reached in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on five points – ending violence, constructive talks among “all parties concerned”, the sending of aid, the appointment of a special ASEAN envoy, and for the envoy to be allowed visits to the country.
Activist monitors say 3,389 people have been detained in a crackdown on dissent by the military since the Feb 1 coup, and nearly 750 people have been killed.
Among those held by the military are Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party was declared the winner of elections prior to the coup, as well as Myanmar’s democratically-elected president and other lawmakers.
There was confusion after the summit as some leaders and diplomats made comments suggesting consensus had been reached on calling for release of political prisoners.
“Malaysia pushed for an end to the violence in Myanmar, the release of political detainees, and for an Asean Envoy to meet with all parties involved,” said Malaysia’s foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein on social media on Sunday. “The Leaders reached consensus on these.”
An official in Mr. Hishammuddin’s ministry referred Reuters to the line in the chair’s statement that there were calls for the freeing of detainees.
Two sources who saw the draft of the consensus points, and requested anonymity, told Reuters they were surprised the language had been changed, but did not say how or when it was altered. Reuters has not seen the draft.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the foreign ministry of Brunei, which chaired the Asean summit.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch said political prisoners would need to be “involved in any negotiated solution to the crisis”.
At the summit, leaders and their representatives gave speeches on the situation in Myanmar, with coup leader Min Aung Hlaing presenting his views last, said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“He said he heard us, he would take the points in which he considered helpful,” Mr. Lee said. (Source: The Straits Times)