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Myanmar violence must end, democracy be restored — Indonesia president

Agence France-Presse
Myanmar violence must end, democracy be restored â Indonesia president
This handout photograph taken on April 24, 2021 and released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo delivering his speech at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myannmar crisis talks in Jakarta.
AFP / Indonesian Presidential Palace

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Myanmar's military must restore democracy and stop the 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 comments followed a meeting in Jakarta of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was 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.

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 crisis-hit nation to "push for dialogue".

Min Aung Hlaing did not make a formal public statement. 

But Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called for the release of Suu Kyi from house arrest, said the junta leader "heard us". 

"He was not opposed to ASEAN playing a constructive role, or an ASEAN delegation visit, or humanitarian assistance, and that they would move forward and engage with ASEAN in a constructive way," Lee told reporters, citing the general's comments at the meeting.

'Murderer-in-chief'

Saturday's talks follow mass protests which have been met by a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds dead.

An estimated 250,000 people have been displaced, according to a UN envoy, with Myanmar's democratically elected 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 symbolise detainees.

In commercial hub Yangon, some residents staged a mock funeral for the senior general by smashing saffron-coloured clay pots on the ground, symbolic of cutting ties with the dead.

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 shadow administration 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.

'Be realistic'

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

But ASEAN has previously taken a mostly hands-off approach to members' internal affairs.

Few analysts had expected major breakthroughs from the meeting, saying instead it was a chance to bring Myanmar's military to the bargaining table and pave the way for a possible resolution.

"We have to be realistic here. I don't think the summit is going to bear out a full-blown plan on how to get Myanmar out of the conflict," Mustafa Izzuddin, senior international affairs analyst at Solaris Strategies Singapore, said before the talks.

"But rather I think it will start the conversation and perhaps lay the parameters as to how a resolution could be found."

The crisis engulfing Myanmar has delivered a major challenge to the future of the ASEAN bloc and its consensus-driven approach.

"International eyes are on (it) to see whether the regional approach that ASEAN has taken to find a resolution in Myanmar is effective," Izzuddin said.

ASEAN

ASEAN SUMMIT

AUNG SAN SUU KYI

INDONESIA

JOKO WIDODO

MYANMAR

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 4, 2023 - 5:01pm

Follow this thread for updates on the situation in Myanmar, where a coup may be happening after de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials have reportedly been detained by the military.

Photo: Military officers wearing facemasks who serve as members of Myanmar's parliament leave after a session at the Assembly of the Union (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) in Naypyidaw on March 10, 2020. AFP/Ye Aung Thu

February 4, 2023 - 5:01pm

Southeast Asian ministers at the end of two-day talks in Indonesia urges Myanmar's junta to implement a five-point peace plan agreed two years ago to create a path towards ending the country's political crisis.

Indonesia -- Southeast Asia's biggest economy -- is the chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2023 and will host the bloc's annual leaders' meetings later this year.

But the ministerial meeting in Jakarta has been overshadowed by the situation in Myanmar, which has been in turmoil since the army seized power in February 2021. — AFP

February 3, 2023 - 2:53pm

Myanmar's junta has introduced tough new measures in resistance strongholds under which people accused of treason and "spreading false news" will be tried by a military court, state media says.

In the 37 townships affected by the measures, no appeals will be allowed for convictions handed down by military tribunals, with the exception of the death penalty, which must be approved by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a 2021 coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government, and a subsequent crackdown on dissent has sparked fighting across swathes of the nation.

The latest announcement signals the junta is looking for new ways to stamp out resistance in areas where anti-coup fighters are active. — AFP

February 2, 2023 - 10:44am

The United States denounces the Myanmar junta's extension of a state of emergency, saying it prolonged suffering two years after a coup toppled an elected government.

"The United States strongly opposes the Burma military regime's decision to extend the state of emergency, prolonging the military's illegitimate rule and the suffering it inflicts upon the country," State Department spokesman Ned Price says, using Myanmar's former name.

The junta on the coup anniversary said it was extending the emergency by six months, pushing back the date for elections under the constitution. — AFP 

February 1, 2023 - 12:35pm

Myanmar democracy activists call on businesses to close nationwide to mark the second anniversary of the coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's government, with the junta hinting it may extend a state of emergency and delay new elections.

The military justified its power grab on February 1, 2020, with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the elections Suu Kyi's party won in a landslide.

Western powers launched a fresh broadside of sanctions against the generals on the anniversary, but previous rounds have shown little sign of throwing the junta off course.

Protesters in commercial hub Yangon draped banners on several bridges calling for people to join the "revolution" on Wednesday, images published by local media showed.

Activists have called for people across the country to close businesses and stay off the streets from 10 am (0330 GMT) to 4 pm. — AFP

January 31, 2023 - 3:06pm

Junta plans for elections in coup-hit Myanmar this year will "fuel greater violence", a United Nations special envoy says, calling for the international community to unite in opposition. 

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military toppled democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government almost two years ago, alleging massive fraud during elections her party won in 2020.

The junta-imposed state of emergency is due to expire at the end of January, after which the constitution states authorities must set in motion plans to hold fresh elections.

Any military-run elections "will fuel greater violence, prolong the conflict and make the return to democracy and stability more difficult", UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer says in a statement. 

She calls for the international community to "forge a stronger unified position" on the planned polls. — AFP

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