Stop killing protesters

ASEAN leaders urge Myanmar junta

25 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

JAKARTA: South East Asian leaders have urged the head of the Myanmar army, which took power in a coup in February, to end the violent crackdown in the country, reports BBC.

In his first known foreign trip since the takeover, General Min Aung Hlaing heard calls for the military to stop killing protesters and to release political prisoners.

More than 700 people have been killed since the coup in February.

The talks in Indonesia were the first big effort to address the crisis.

Leaders and foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) took part in the summit that was held in the capital Jakarta despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for an immediate end to the violence against civilians and the unconditional release of political prisoners. “The deplorable situation in Myanmar must stop immediately,” he said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo also called the situation “unacceptable” and urged the general to allow the aid into Myanmar.

After the meeting, 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.”

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, also known as Burma, to be expelled from Asean but the members historically do not get involved in each other’s internal affairs.

The UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, is in Jakarta for meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

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.