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ASEAN ministers are putting pressure on Myanmar after “painfully slow” progress



Southeast Asian foreign ministers, who are mediating the Myanmar crisis, on Monday called on its military leaders to release prisoners and launch a coherent political dialogue, expressing disappointment with “very slow” progress so far.

The United Nations, Western nations and China support the efforts of the 1

0-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to find a way out of the crisis in Myanmar, a country paralyzed by the aftermath of a February 1 coup that ended a decade of pre-democracy.

Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign minister, a key investor in Myanmar, said ASEAN’s diplomatic efforts “only make sense if there is a genuine desire for genuine dialogue and negotiation and reconciliation in Myanmar itself.”

“To be honest with you, we are disappointed with the slow – very, very slow progress,” he told Singaporean media in a call from Chongqing, China, where ASEAN foreign ministers met with their Chinese counterpart on Monday.

Myanmar’s junta has shown no signs of adhering to a consensus reached in April between 10 ASEAN countries, including Myanmar, which is calling for an end to violence, political talks and the appointment of a regional special envoy.

“Indonesia really hopes that the implementation of the five points of consensus must be accelerated after this meeting with another transparent process,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a news conference.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said ASEAN must acknowledge that progress on the consensus has been “painfully slow”.

“The international community is looking forward to further ASEAN action,” he said on Twitter.

Summarizing the remarks read at the meeting, he said ASEAN “needs to act faster to reduce tensions and stop violence.”

The junta is struggling to gain control after ousting elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, sparking a wave of anger, protests and strikes and efforts to build a national alliance to thwart the military’s bid to consolidate power.

EXPERIMENTAL TRANSACTIONS

Suu Kyi, a 75-year-old Nobel laureate, will be tried in the first of several criminal cases against her, according to her lawyer, who met her on Monday for a court hearing.

The charges include illegal possession of two-way radios, violation of coronavirus protocols and bribery.

The trial is due to end by July 26, Chief Justice Khin Maung Zau told Reuters, citing the presiding judge. Suu Kyi was kept in an undisclosed location. Read more

She is charged separately with violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a 14-year prison sentence.

ASEAN ministers’ comments follow a visit to Myanmar on Friday by two ASEAN envoys, during which they called on the junta to release all detainees and discuss the implementation of the consensus.

The envoys met with military chief Min Aung Hlaing and several junta-appointed ministers did not make a visit from ASEAN.

Unlike his more closed predecessors, Min Aung Hlaing sought to maintain a high public profile after the coup. His public speeches and meetings with high-ranking foreign officials, businessmen, government officials and Buddhist monks are a daily occurrence on state-controlled television.

In a statement on June 5, ASEAN said the purpose of the visit was to discuss how Myanmar would reach a “peaceful solution in the interests of its people” by implementing the five points.

It also said they had “called for the release of all political prisoners, including women and children and foreigners” – an appeal that is not in consensus but is supported by many ASEAN members.

Reuters could not be reached by a junta spokesman for comment Monday.

Myanmar’s state-run Global New Light said the meeting covered “the implementation of the recommendation for an initial ASEAN survey”, the army’s plan to hold elections and “terrorist actions” by its opponents.

Opponents of the junta and many in Myanmar have shown disappointment with ASEAN’s lack of heavy action and its refusal to involve other political stakeholders, especially the ousted government.

Min Aung Hlaing met with China’s ambassador to Myanmar on Saturday. China’s state-run Global Times quoted the junta leader as saying Myanmar was ready to coordinate the implementation of the consensus.

He said the ambassador said China was ready to support it.

Following Monday’s meeting, the Indonesian retno said Chinese aid would be “highly appreciated as it will contribute to a peaceful solution”.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.


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