International pressure mounts on Myanmar junta

International pressure mounts on Myanmar junta

Countries call on military to let Asean envoy meet Aung San Suu Kyi, whose lawyer has been gagged

Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer representing Aung San Suu Kyi, speaks to the media outside the district court in Nay Pyi Taw in February. He said on Friday that he has been barred by the junta from speaking to journalists, diplomats or international organisations. (Photo: Stringer via AFP)
Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer representing Aung San Suu Kyi, speaks to the media outside the district court in Nay Pyi Taw in February. He said on Friday that he has been barred by the junta from speaking to journalists, diplomats or international organisations. (Photo: Stringer via AFP)

Eight countries and the EU diplomatic chief on Friday urged the Myanmar junta to let a regional special envoy meet ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The call comes as concerns grow over the military government’s seeming lack of commitment to a “five-point consensus” agreed with Asean to defuse the bloody crisis that erupted after Myanmar’s Feb 1 coup.

Asean foreign ministers were scheduled to meet virtually on Friday evening to debate whether to exclude Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit over his government’s intransigence.

The military authorities have said they will not allow Asean special envoy Erywan Yusof, a Bruneian diplomat, to meet anyone currently on trial, which includes Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a joint statement, the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway and East Timor say they are “deeply concerned about the dire situation in Myanmar” and urged Nay Pyi Taw to “engage constructively” with the special envoy.

“We further call on the military to facilitate regular visits to Myanmar by the Asean Special Envoy, and for him to be able to engage freely with all stakeholders,” said the statement, also endorsed by European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Rebuffing pressure from several other Asean member states, the Myanmar foreign ministry on Thursday insisted Yusof could not “go beyond the permission of existing laws” and urged him to focus on meeting government officials instead.

International pressure has so far had little impact on the junta, which launched a brutal crackdown on protests against its power grab that has so far killed nearly 1,200 civilians.

In another development, the head lawyer representing Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday that authorities had imposed a gag order on him because they said his communications could cause “instability”.

Myanmar’s state media has not reported developments in Aung San Suu Kyi’s multiple legal cases, and her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, has been the only source of public information on her trial and her wellbeing.

He said in a Facebook post he had been barred from speaking to media, diplomats, international organisations and foreign governments and later posted details of the order.

“Khin Maung Zaw’s communications may cause harassment, hurting a person who is acting in accordance with the law, may cause riots and destabilise the public peace,” the order said.

“Some local and foreign media outlets, illegal media outlets and the media are inciting fake information that could destabilise the country.”

A spokesman for the military did not answer calls seeking comment.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in an undisclosed location since the Feb 1 coup with no means of communicating with the outside world other than through her lawyers, who she meets only in court.

She is charged with a litany of offences, including breaking coronavirus protocols, illegally importing and possessing two-way radios, incitement to cause public alarm and violating the Official Secrets Act.


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