KUALA LUMPUR • Asean chairman Brunei yesterday threw its support behind a regional leaders' meeting to discuss developments in Myanmar and said it has asked officials to prepare for a meeting in Jakarta.
Myanmar has been in crisis since a Feb 1 military coup that ousted the elected government of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.
Activists say more than 560 people, including 47 children, have since been killed in a crackdown by security forces on protests and strikes across the country.
Indonesia has led efforts by members of Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, to encourage a negotiated solution despite a longstanding policy of not commenting on one another's domestic problems.
In a joint statement with Malaysia, Brunei said both countries have asked their ministers and senior officials to undertake "necessary preparations for the meeting that will be held at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia".
The statement followed a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah yesterday.
"Both leaders agreed for Asean leaders to meet to discuss the ongoing developments in Myanmar," they said. They did not say when the meeting would be held.
Both leaders expressed concern over the rising number of fatalities in Myanmar.
"They urged all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to immediately exercise utmost restraint and flexibility," according to the statement.
Asean operates by consensus, but the divergent views of its 10 members on how to respond to the army's use of lethal force against civilians and the group's policy of non-interference has limited its ability to act.
Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore have all expressed alarm over the violence and support an urgent high-level meeting on Myanmar.
Last week, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan expressed dismay at the bloodshed during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. He said Singapore was "alarmed and appalled" at the escalating violence.
He called for restraint and to start "honest, constructive dialogue between the two sides", and said that China also shares Singapore's hope that tensions and violence can cease and talks can start.
"Asean and the UN will certainly try to help in a constructive and non-interference way, but in a way that allows dialogue to occur. So we will have to do so carefully, patiently and in a way which encourages engagement and conversation rather than confrontation," he said.
Meanwhile, demonstrators in Myanmar continued demanding the restoration of Ms Suu Kyi's government yesterday and called for more coordinated nationwide dissent against the military junta.
Six people were killed at the weekend, according to activists, as police and soldiers forcefully broke up demonstrations.
The movement has included street marches, a civil disobedience campaign of strikes and quirky acts of rebellion organised on social media.
Besides the brutal crackdown on street protests, the junta has sought to suppress the campaign by shutting down wireless broadband and mobile data services.
Earlier yesterday, demonstrators with placards of Ms Suu Kyi and signs asking for international intervention marched through the streets of Myanmar's second-biggest city Mandalay.
Activists called for a nationwide clap later yesterday in appreciation of the ethnic minority armed groups that are supporting the democratic cause, and young demonstrators who have been at the vanguard of protests, trying to shield or rescue the wounded.
A total of 2,667 people have been detained under the junta, the Association for Political Prisoners activist group said yesterday.