Myanmar military cooperating with 5 neighbours, vows to stamp out 'anarchy'

Myanmar's military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said China was friends with Myanmar but did not specify the others.
Myanmar's military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said China was friends with Myanmar but did not specify the others.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Myanmar's ruling military council is cooperating with five neighbouring countries and values and respects their words, plus any countries that respect the stability of Myanmar, its junta said on Tuesday (March 23).

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said China was friends with Myanmar but did not specify the others, or the extent of their cooperation. He said junta leader Min Aung Hlaing had indicated that he wanted to continue to be friends with the international community.

He said it was sad about people killed in its brutal crackdown on anti-coup protests, but vowed to press ahead with stamping out what it called “anarchy”.

The junta has unleashed deadly violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the Feb 1 ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, drawing international condemnation and sanctions.

More than 260 people have been killed since nationwide protests erupted against the coup, according to a local monitoring group.

In a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun put the death toll at 164.

“I am sad because these violent terrorist people who died are our nationals,” he said.

The authorities have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse protests, prompting a senior UN rights expert to warn they may be committing “crimes against humanity”.

Zaw Min Tun defended the response, saying the security forces were dealing with “insurgents holding weapons” and five police and four soldiers had been killed.

“We have to crack down on the anarchy. Which countries in the world accept anarchy?” he said.

During Tuesday’s briefing he threatened journalists not to communicate with the parallel government set up by overthrown members of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy saying they would face legal action for doing so.

He also said that the junta has no intention of restoring full internet connectivity in Myanmar anytime soon amid persisting and widespread cuts since the coup.

“People are using the mobile internet to instigate destructive acts,” he said.             

Meanwhile, an Australian adviser to Ms Suu Kyi is being investigated by the authorities under two separate charges, Zaw Min Tun said.

Sean Turnell, who was detained shortly after the military takeover of the country in a coup on Feb 1, is being investigated for violations of Myanmar’s immigration and official secrets acts, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

If found guilty the adviser could face several years in prison. “We have allowed Sean Turnell to speak to his family on the phone twice, and will allow him more,” he said.