Myanmar's anti-coup groups denounce Asean consensus

Demonstrators flash three-fingers salutes as they march during an anti-military coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar, on April 26, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK - Key parties in Myanmar's anti-coup movement that have been coordinating strikes nationwide on Monday (April 26) denounced the five-point consensus reached during the recent special Asean summit, saying it was not in line with people's wishes.

There are also plans to establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure that Asean makes meaningful progress on the agreements it sealed on Saturday.

The General Strike Committee of Nationalities said in a statement released on Monday that the results of the summit in Jakarta "do not reflect the views and voices of the Myanmar people and will not solve the political crisis in Myanmar". They will in fact "be a major obstacle to building a future federal democratic union that the people aspire to", it said.

The rare in-person gathering of Asean leaders was criticised for its inclusion of Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, whose coup on Feb 1 plunged the country into a crisis so serious it threatens regional stability.

While several Asean states took pains not to acknowledge the senior general as Myanmar's official representative, the bloc did not invite to the summit any representative from the National Unity Government (NUG) which is challenging the junta's legitimacy.

After the meeting, Asean leaders announced a consensus on the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and the launch of dialogue between key parties to be facilitated by the special Asean envoy aided by the bloc's secretary-general. They also agreed that an Asean delegation would visit Myanmar, and that Asean would provide humanitarian aid.

Nikkei Asia reported that Asean chair Brunei is considering nominating former Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda for the post of special envoy.

Shortly after the meeting, Dr Sasa, the NUG's minister for international cooperation, released a statement saying the consensus was "encouraging" and it "eagerly" await engagement with the Asean secretary-general.

But Ms Khin Sandar, spokesman for the General Strike Collaboration Committee that coordinates the civil disobedience movement, asked if the appointment of the Asean envoy was a foot-dragging tactic since there was already a United Nations special envoy on Myanmar - Ms Christine Schraner Burgener - who has so far been denied entry to Myanmar.

Myanmar people are determined to deny the military any say in the country's political future, Ms Khin Sandar told The Straits Times. "If Asean does not help, it's okay. We will go our own way," she said. "We will not allow the junta to govern our people."

Myanmar's state media made no mention of Asean's five-point consensus. The junta-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar on Sunday only referred to how Senior General Min Aung Hlaing talked about "Myanmar's continued assistance in sustainable efforts for regional rehabilitation", cooperation with Asean, and the "political changes in Myanmar and future work programmes".

In a press conference on Monday, Malaysia lawmaker Charles Santiago, who chairs the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said the release of all political prisoners was "a necessary prerequisite for the cessation of violence or any form of negotiations to take place".

"No one can negotiate with their hands tied," he said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (APHR) said over 3,400 people had been detained as at Sunday. They include state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and president Win Myint, who have been slapped with what are widely considered trumped-up charges to rule them out of any future election organised by the junta. A total of 751 people have been killed.

APHR is working to set up a mechanism to monitor and assess how Asean implements the consensus, said Mr Santiago.

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