Myanmar unity govt says it must be part of any bid to end crisis

Its official says Asean has to negotiate with it and should not recognise the junta too

Supporters of the National Unity Government in Yangon yesterday. It has requested an invitation to the Asean meeting in Jakarta this Saturday in place of General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief. PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of the National Unity Government in Yangon yesterday. It has requested an invitation to the Asean meeting in Jakarta this Saturday in place of General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON • Myanmar's neighbours have to negotiate with a newly established government of national unity, its official said, if they want to help resolve the turmoil triggered by a Feb 1 military coup.

He added that they should not recognise the junta too.

Asean has been trying to find a way out of the bloody crisis that has racked member Myanmar since the military ousted an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has shown little willingness to engage with its neighbours and no sign of wanting to talk with the government it ousted.

But in the first hint of progress for Asean, General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief, will attend a summit in Indonesia this Saturday, a Thai government official said on Saturday.

It will be the military chief's first known foreign trip and meeting with foreign leaders since he seized power.

The junta has not commented on the Asean meeting.

Mr Moe Zaw Oo, a deputy minister of foreign affairs in a National Unity Government (NUG) set up last week, said Asean should not recognise the junta.

"If Asean is considering action related to Myanmar affairs, I'd like to say it won't succeed unless it negotiates with the NUG, which is supported by the people and has complete legitimacy," he told Voice of America (VOA) in an interview published yesterday.

Pro-democracy politicians, including ousted members of Parliament from Ms Suu Kyi's party, announced the formation of the NUG on Friday.

It includes Ms Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup, as well as leaders of the pro-democracy protests and ethnic minorities.

The NUG has called for international recognition as the legitimate authority and requested an invitation to the Asean meeting in Gen Min Aung Hlaing's place.

"It's very important that the junta council is not recognised," Mr Moe Zaw Oo told VOA, adding that the unity government had not been invited to the meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Myanmar's security forces have killed 730 people in efforts to end protests against the coup, activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, drawing condemnation from Western countries and unprecedented criticism from several members of Asean despite a bloc principle of not interfering in one another's affairs.

In Washington, United States President Joe Biden and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga condemned the violence by the Myanmar security forces against civilians.

"We... commit to continue taking action to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy," they said in a statement on Friday, which was posted on the US embassy's Twitter account yesterday.

It did not refer to the NUG.

Yesterday, crowds were out on the streets of several towns in Myanmar to show support for the NUG.

Security forces shot and killed two protesters in the ruby-mining town of Mogok on Saturday, a resident told Reuters.

Several small bombs went off in the main city of Yangon, killing one soldier and wounding several people, media outlets reported. There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts.

The military has accused protesters of carrying out bomb attacks.

The coup has also triggered clashes between the army and ethnic minority insurgents - who have expressed support for the protesters - in the north and east.

Fighting has forced thousands of civilians from their homes in border regions.

The military has defended its coup alleging the result of November's election was fraudulent, although the election commission dismissed such objections.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2021, with the headline 'Myanmar unity govt says it must be part of any bid to end crisis'. Subscribe