Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries prepared for a special meeting with Myanmar’s ruling military on Tuesday in an effort to curb deadly violence and open a channel to address the escalating political crisis.
The talks will come two days after the bloodiest day of unrest since the military removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government a month ago, sparking anger and mass protests across Myanmar.
The streets were largely silent in the largest city of Yangon early Tuesday ahead of what protesters said would be another major demonstration. Several shopping malls announced closures due to unrest, some in places where protests have taken place.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Monday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck and firing hundreds of protesters into a rally on Monday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.
In remarks read on state television by a news broadcaster, June General Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said protest leaders and “instigators” would be punished and threatened action against officials who refused to work.
My Aung Hlaing has promised to hold new elections and hand power to the winner, but has not given a clear time frame.
His coup on February 1 halted Myanmar’s preliminary move toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule and has condemned and sanctioned the United States and other Western nations and growing unrest among its neighbors.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be sincere when they meet via video call on Tuesday and will tell a representative of Myanmar’s military that they are appalled by the violence.
In a television interview late Monday, he said ASEAN would encourage dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.
“There is the political leadership … and there is the military leadership on the other side. They need to talk and we need to help bring them together,” he said.
ASEAN groups Myanmar, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
But ASEAN’s efforts to engage in Myanmar’s military were met with harsh reprimands from anti-insurgency groups, including a committee of expelled lawmakers who have declared the junta a “terrorist” group.
Sa Sa, the committee’s anointed envoy to the UN, said ASEAN should have nothing to do with “this illegal military-led regime”.
Alumni for the ASEAN youth program in Myanmar said the bloc should talk to the international representatives of the Suu Kyi administration, not to the regime.
“ASEAN must understand that the coup or re-election promised by the military junta is completely unacceptable to the people of Myanmar,” it said in a letter to ASEAN.
Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin indicated on Twitter that ASEAN would stick to Myanmar, saying that its policy of not interfering in a member’s internal affairs “is not a complete approval or tacit consent for mistakes to be made there”.
Suu Kyi, 75, appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing on Monday and looked in good health during her appearance in court, said one of her lawyers. Two more charges were added to those filed against her after the coup, she said.
The Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since her government was overthrown and she was arrested along with other party leaders.
Hundreds of people have been arrested since the coup, according to activists, the latest journalist for the democratic voice in Burma, who livestreamed security forces outside his apartment on Monday in the coastal town of Myeik, where he filmed protests. DVB confirmed the arrest.
The United States warned Myanmar’s military rulers on Monday that they would take more action if security forces killed unarmed people and attacked journalists and activists, which State Department spokesman Ned Price called “abominable violence”.
White House Press Minister Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was preparing additional costs for those responsible for the coup.
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Monday that she hoped to use Washington’s presidency of the UN Security Council in March to push for more “intensive discussions” on Myanmar.