The National Unity Government has welcomed a call by Southeast Asian leaders for an end to “military violence” after crisis talks in Jakarta with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attended a high-level summit on Saturday with leaders from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss Myanmar’s mounting crisis.
The ASEAN meeting produced a consensus that there would be “an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar”.
The junta’s security forces have killed more than 740 people in brutal crackdowns, according local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Yesterday’s statement added that ASEAN will also have a special envoy to “facilitate mediation” between all parties, and this representative will be able to travel to Myanmar.
But while they “heard calls for the release of all political prisoners”, a commitment to free them was not included in the consensus statement.
A spokesperson from the National Unity Government – formed this month by ousted MPs and ethnic leaders to challenge the junta – said ASEAN’s statement was “encouraging news”.
The NUG had earlier demanded to be included in the summit as Myanmar’s legitimate government.
“We look forward to firm action by ASEAN to follow up its decisions and restore our democracy and freedom for our people and for the region,” said Dr Sasa, the NUG’s minister of international cooperation, who is currently in hiding.
The members of the NUG are wanted for high treason by the junta.
Overnight, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc will continue to call for the release of political prisoners.
‘Business as usual’
As Myanmar nears three months under the new military regime, escalating violence by its security forces – especially in urban centres – has pushed protesters and prominent activists into hiding.
The junta has also throttled communications across the country, imposing a nightly internet shutdown for 70 consecutive days and banning mobile internet and public WiFi.
By Saturday, the number of detainees climbed to 3,389, according to AAPP.
Independent news outlet The Irrawaddy confirmed Sunday that a former editor, Thu Thu Tha, was arrested in Thanlyin Township in southeastern Yangon.
“In spite of Min Aung Hlaing’s appearance in the ASEAN summit, it’s business as usual,” Irrawaddy’s founder Aung Zaw told AFP, adding that most of his staff are currently in hiding.
On Saturday, as the junta chief attended the meeting with ASEAN leaders and foreign ministers in Jakarta, soldiers and police fired on protesters near the capital Naypyidaw.
One 50-year-old protester was held by the police and shot dead by a soldier, an eyewitness told AFP.
Despite the threat of violence, protesters across Myanmar continued to take to the streets Sunday – from the northern jade mining city of Hpakant to eastern Kayah State.
In the town of Myingyan in Mandalay Region – where brutal crackdowns have forced residents to hide in nearby villages – protesters smeared red paint on some of the town’s buildings to protest the bloodshed.
“Give power back to the people,” read graffiti on Myingyan’s pavements.
‘Will the killing stop?’
State-run newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar on Sunday reported on Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to Jakarta and said he discussed the country’s “political changes”.
But it made no mention of ASEAN’s consensus for a halt to violence.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said it remains to be seen how effective the bloc’s engagement will be.
“The result of the ASEAN Summit will be found in Myanmar, not [in] a document,” Andrews tweeted Sunday.
“Will the killing stop? Will the terrorizing of neighborhoods end? Will the thousands abducted be released?”
The junta has justified its power seizure as a means to protect democracy, making unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud in the November general election, which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.