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Opponents of Myanmar’s junta say they do not believe in ASEAN as envoys visit



The head of the Myanmar junta, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who overthrew the elected government in a coup on February 1, presided over an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naipitau, Myanmar, March 27, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer

Opponents of Myanmar’s junta said Friday they had lost faith in Southeast Asia’s efforts to end the country̵

7;s crisis as two regional envoys met with military ruler Min Aung Hlaing in the capital, Naipitau.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is leading major international diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the crisis in Myanmar, a troubled country following the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s military government on February 1st.

“We have little confidence in ASEAN’s efforts. All our hopes are gone,” said Moe Zaw Oo, deputy foreign minister in a parallel government that the junta has declared a betrayal.

“I don’t think they have a solid plan for their trust,” he told ASEAN.

Moe Zaw Oo spoke at an ongoing press conference that was disrupted in Myanmar by internet outages.

Two sources familiar with the interruption, who declined to be identified for security reasons, said Reuters authorities had ordered the shutdown.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing met on Friday with ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi and Erivan Yusof, the second foreign minister for ASEAN President Brunei, Myawaddy-led army television reported.

It said the meeting was discussing Myanmar’s co-operation on humanitarian issues, holding elections once the country is stable, and what it said were irregularities in last year’s elections that led to military intervention.

The military, which ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011, had promised to restore democracy within two years.

The visit was part of a five-point consensus reached at a meeting of the bloc’s leaders in Jakarta in late April, which was attended by Min Aung Hlaing and marked by ASEAN as a breakthrough.

ASEAN has not yet announced the visit, and it is not immediately clear whether the envoys planned to meet with opponents of the military or other stakeholders.

A STATE IN CHAOS

Myanmar plunged into chaos after the coup, with strikes, boycotts and protests across the country paralyzing the economy and tens of thousands displaced by heavy fighting between military and ethnic minority rebels and newly formed militias.

At least 845 people have been killed by security forces and more than 4,500 in prison, according to a group of activists. The junta disputes these figures.

No 75-year-old Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is among those charged in two different courts for crimes ranging from violating coronavirus curbs and smuggling walkie-talkies to violating the Official Secrets Act, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Her lawyer expressed concern Friday that she did not have a legal representative in the most serious cases, including her Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell, but listed them all as representatives.

“We are concerned that they will not have legal representatives and there will be no transparency,” Hin Maung Zau told Reuters.

The National Unity Government (NUG), made up of pro-democracy groups and supporters of the ruling Suu Kyi party, said on Friday it would end the conflict in Myanmar and write a new federal constitution, but would have to defeat the junta first.

Her defense minister, Khin Ma Ma Myo, said militias called the People’s Defense Forces had been formed across the country but needed to work with existing armed groups.

“The NUG government will call for war at some point. When that time comes, we must work together to defeat the junta,” he said.

“At the moment, it doesn’t matter who the leader is, it’s important to defeat the common enemy – the terrorist regime.”

Min Aung Hlaing’s meeting with ASEAN envoys came a day after he met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The United Nations, Western countries and China have supported ASEAN’s mediating role, but some Western powers have also imposed increasing sanctions on junta members and their economic interests.

The Special Advisory Council on Myanmar, a group of independent international experts, said it was crucial that ASEAN envoys meet with all parties in the country, including protest leaders, NUG, elected lawmakers and Suu Kyi’s party.

“Failure to meet with all parties concerned risks giving the junta legitimacy and undermining the enormous efforts and sacrifices made by the people of Myanmar to counter the junta’s violent and illegal attempt to seize power,” it said.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.


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