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Myanmar anti-coup protesters decry ASEAN consensus

Activists say results of the special summit in Jakarta did not reflect the views of Myanmar's people

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: April 27, 2021 08:02 AM GMT

Updated: April 27, 2021 08:24 AM GMT

Myanmar anti-coup protesters decry ASEAN consensus

Protesters hold up the three-finger salute as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Tarmwe township in Yangon on April 26. (Photo: AFP)

Anti-coup protesters and activists in Myanmar have denounced the consensus reached at a special ASEAN summit as not reflecting people's wishes.

The General Strike Committee of Nationalities said the results of the regional bloc's summit in Jakarta will not solve the political crisis in the beleaguered country.

“It will not be able to solve Myanmar’s crisis and will be a major obstacle to building a federal democratic union that the people have longed for,” it said in a statement on April 26.

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A five-point consensus was reached at the April 24 summit to end violence, seek constructive dialogue among all parties, appoint a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate dialogue, provide humanitarian aid and arrange a visit by the envoy to Myanmar.

However, it didn’t mention the release of political prisoners detained since the Feb. 1 coup overthrew a democratically elected government.

The 10-member bloc was criticized for its invitation to Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has played a leading role in rights violations against civilians including murder, arbitrary arrests and torture.

Before any constructive dialogue can take place, however, there must be an unconditional release of political prisoners

The bloc also did not invite the National Unity Government (NUG), established by ousted lawmakers who were elected in the 2020 election to challenge the legitimacy of the junta.

The NUG said it remains greatly concerned that any misrepresentation of facts by the military may affect the way in which ASEAN formulates and implements the necessary follow-up actions to the five-point consensus adopted by the meeting.

“Before any constructive dialogue can take place, however, there must be an unconditional release of political prisoners including President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi,” Prime Minister Mahn Win Khaing Than said in a statement on April 27.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said ASEAN cannot paper over the fact that there is no agreement for the Myanmar junta to release more than 3,300 political prisoners, including senior political figures who presumably would be involved in any negotiated solution to the crisis.

“The lack of a clear timeline for action, and ASEAN’s well-known weakness in implementing the decisions and plans that it issues, are real concerns that no one should overlook,” Robertson said.

Many people inside Myanmar have expressed dismay at ASEAN’s consensus as it ignores the wishes of those who have called for restoring democracy, ending military rule and the release of all political prisoners.

One Facebook user said that “Asean’s statement is a slap in the face of the people who have been abused, killed and terrorized by the military.”

All of us are peace lovers, very few of us are peace makers

Despite the military’s intense crackdown, protests with guerrilla-style tactics continue in cities and towns. Young protesters held placards saying “Reject SAC,” referring to the State Administrative Council, in protests in Yangon on April 25.

At least three people were killed by security forces while the ASEAN meeting was being held in Jakarta, according to local media reports.

More than 750 people have been killed by the junta since Feb. 1, according to a rights group that tracks casualties and arrests.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said all people desire peace but very few desire those things that make for peace. “All of us are peace lovers, very few of us are peace makers,” he said on Twitter on April 26.

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