ASEAN urges ‘immediate’ end to violence, restraint among sides in Myanmar

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 03 2022 01:52 AM

A group of women hold torches as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar July 14, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File
A group of women hold torches as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar July 14, 2021. Reuters/Stringer/File

PHNOM PENH — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations urged an "immediate" end to violence in Myanmar on Wednesday and for the junta to allow a special envoy tasked with facilitating talks to visit as soon as possible. 

The 10-nation regional bloc has led diplomatic efforts to end the chaos unleashed in Myanmar by coup last year, which triggered mass protests and a deadly crackdown on dissent.

But violence has continued, with anti-junta groups clashing regularly with the military and the World Bank warning Myanmar's economy had likely contracted by almost a fifth last year.

The bloc called for the "immediate cessation of violence and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint" in a statement released by Cambodia, the current chair.

Its special envoy -- Cambodia's foreign minister Prak Sokhonn -- should also be allowed to visit the country as "soon as possible to meet with all parties concerned", it added.

It made no mention of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the coup and faces a catalog of charges in a junta court that could jail her for more than 100 years. 

The junta cited Suu Kyi's ongoing trial as a reason for refusing to allow ASEAN's previous special envoy to meet with the Nobel laureate, which prompted the bloc to exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from a high-level October summit.

Myanmar is increasingly isolated on the international stage, with Cambodian strongman ruler Hun Sen's January visit the first by any foreign leader since the generals seized power.

In a speech marking the coup anniversary on Tuesday, Min Aung Hlaing said the junta had discussed the ASEAN and UN special envoys to the country, according to state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.

But he added any cooperation with the international community would be done "without harming the sovereignty of the State, national interests and the future plans of the government". 

More than 1,500 people have been killed by security forces and over 11,000 arrested since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.

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