On his first foreign trip abroad, Myanmar’s military junta leader and chief coup plotter was urged to by South East Asian leaders to end the violent crackdown in his country.
General Min Aung Hlaing is in Jakarta, Indonesia for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit to discuss the situation in Myanmar, the first big effort to address the crisis.
A statement released after the summit said the leaders and foreign ministers from the 10-member Asean called for the Myanmar military to stop killing protesters and to release political prisoners.
The Asean leaders reached a consensus on five points, which included opening a dialogue between the military and civilian leaders, with that process overseen by a special envoy who would also visit with a delegation.
The Southeast Asian group of countries also offered humanitarian assistance.
After the meeting, which was held in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the general was “not opposed” to a visit by as Asean delegation or humanitarian assistance, adding: “He said he heard us, he would take the points in which he considered helpful.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also called for unconditional release of political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention, as well as anti-coup leaders.
“The deplorable situation in Myanmar must stop immediately,” he said.
The consensus was welcomed by Myanmar’s newly formed National Unity Government (NUG), a group made up of opponents of the coup – including pro-democracy figures, representatives of the armed ethnic groups and members of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s former government.
Demonstrators gathered near the venue of the summit, beating pots and pans and holding signs that read “Restore democracy” and “We stand against the military coup”. Protests were also held in Myanmar’s main cities but there were no immediate reports of violence.
United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres had called for the Asean summit to resolve the crisis and prevent “possible grave humanitarian implications beyond Myanmar’s borders,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
There have been calls for Myanmar to be expelled from Asean but the members historically do not get involved in each other’s internal affairs.
Also in Jakarta is UN special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener, for meetings on the sidelines of the summit.
Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military seized control and declared a year-long state of emergency.
The armed forces claim there had been widespread fraud during a general election late last year which had returned elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party (NLD) to power.
The military promised instead that it would hold “free and fair” elections once the state of emergency is over. (Source: BBC)