Nine months after coup, Myanmar junta chief calls for self-reliance amid political woes

Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing also said the authorities are mulling over reopening the country as the pandemic is now under control. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Amid political challenges, the people of Myanmar must be self-reliant as the nation will be progressive and stable only through cooperation, according to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

"Politically, we are facing various kinds of criticism and restrictions," the coup leader said on state broadcaster MRTV on Monday (Nov 1) to mark nine months of the ouster of the civilian government led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Now is the time our people must be working together to ensure development and stability of the country," he said.

Asean excluded Myanmar's top general from a regional summit last week after the military government did not allow the bloc's special envoy to meet ousted leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi and former president Win Myint.

The rare move came as the bloc viewed that the regime failed to do enough to end violence after the coup.

At the regional meet last week, world leaders including United States President Joe Biden expressed concern over the situation in Myanmar, and called on the junta to fulfil its commitment to the five-point consensus of the Asean leaders' meeting in April.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Mahn Win Khaing Than, prime minister of the parallel National Unity Government pledged to boost ties with neighbouring China, India and Asean countries and to expand the opposition-controlled areas across the nation.

In his speech, General Min Aung Hlaing also said the authorities are mulling over reopening the country as the pandemic is now under control, though it had been severely hit by a third Covid-19 wave.

He said more than 35 per cent of Myanmar's population aged 45 years and above, and nearly one million students aged 12 years and above have been vaccinated.

Mr Biden and Indonesian President Joko Widodo also called on the Myanmar military junta to release political prisoners in the country, the White House said on Monday.

Meeting on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Mr Biden and Mr Widodo "expressed concern about the coup in Burma and agreed the Burmese military must cease violence, release all political prisoners and provide for a swift return to democracy", referring to Myanmar's former name.

Mr Biden expressed support for Asean's position on Myanmar, whose military chief was banned from the regional bloc's virtual summits last week.

Indonesia is next in line as president of the Group of 20 major economies and Mr Biden "expressed support for its leadership in the Indo-Pacific as the world's third-largest democracy and a strong proponent of the international rules-based order", the White House said.

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