Top Asean officials meet Myanmar junta chief

Top Asean officials meet Myanmar junta chief

New attempt made to persuade army to accept visit by Asean special envoy

A woman takes refuge on Thursday in a cave near Demoso in Kayah state, bordering on Mae Hong Son, after fleeing from conflict zones where fighting continues between the Myanmar military and members of the People’s Defence Force. (AFP Photo)
A woman takes refuge on Thursday in a cave near Demoso in Kayah state, bordering on Mae Hong Son, after fleeing from conflict zones where fighting continues between the Myanmar military and members of the People’s Defence Force. (AFP Photo)

Two top Asean officials met on Friday with Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in the country's capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to discuss the crisis that has gripped the country since the military coup in February.

The trip by Lim Jock Hoi, the Asean secretary-general, and Erywan Pehin Yusof, Brunei’s second foreign minister, was made in preparation for the hoped-for dispatch of a special Asean envoy to Myanmar.

It was not expected that the pair would have a chance to meet with the country’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She is currently being detained pending trial for a number of charges being pressed by the junta.

Asean held an extraordinary summit meeting in Indonesia in late April to discuss the situation in Myanmar, where turmoil caused by the Feb 1 coup continues. Gen Min Aung Hlaing attended, to the dismay of activist groups who said his presence amounted to recognition of an illegitimate regime.

Five items were agreed on, including the need for an immediate suspension of violence and the dispatch of a special envoy who would serve as a mediator in future dialogue between the junta and pro-democracy forces in the country.

It was earlier believed that the special envoy would be dispatched in mid-May, but the military has displayed a negative attitude toward early acceptance.

Myanmar has said it would “give careful consideration to constructive suggestions” made by Asean leaders only “when the situation returns to stability in the country”, making arrangements for dispatch of the envoy potentially tricky.

Since the overthrow of the civilian government, the junta has kept Aung San Suu Kyi and other prominent politicians in detention while using brute force against anti-coup protesters.

More than 840 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Pro-democracy forces have launched what they call the National Unity Government as Myanmar’s sole legitimate governing body. But the junta has designated it as a terrorist organisation and put its members on a wanted list for suspected treason.

A face-to-face foreign ministers’ meeting between Asean and China is scheduled for this month, at which developments in Myanmar are expected to be discussed.

Brunei currently serves as chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


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