ASEAN leaders tell Burma coup general to end killings, release prisoners

ASEAN leaders tell Burma coup general to end killings, release prisoners


Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) say they made progress during an emergency meeting with the leader of the ongoing military coup in Burma. They demanded an immediate end to killings and a swift release of political prisoners. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Burma’s top general, did not outright reject their requests.

“He did not reject what was put forward by me and many other colleagues,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said, according to Reuters. “We tried not to accuse his side too much because we don’t care who’s causing it. We just stressed that the violence must stop. For him, it’s the other side that’s causing the problems. But he agreed that violence must stop.”

ASEAN leaders made their demands clear during a two-hour emergency meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 24, 2021, when they asked Min Aung Hlaing for a commitment to restrain his security forces. Since February 1, 2021, more than 700 mostly peaceful protesters and bystanders have died during daily shootings by Burmese police and Soldiers, according to The Associated Press (AP). (Pictured: Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders convene to discuss the military coup in Burma.)

“The situation in Myanmar [Burma] is unacceptable and should not continue. Violence must be stopped, democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be returned immediately,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during the meeting, according to the AP. “The interests of the people of Myanmar must always be the priority.”

Muhyiddin acknowledged mounting pressure from the international community for ASEAN to act but dismissed allegations that the 10-nation bloc had not done enough to address the crisis.

“We are concerned about what’s happening and we’ve taken steps and made decisions. The best thing is that there is a representative from Myanmar who says they are ready to accept our representative there,” he said, according to AP.

Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance at the meeting marked the first time he’d left Burma since the coup, AP reported. “He was not opposed to ASEAN playing a constructive role, or an ASEAN delegation visit or humanitarian assistance,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, according to Reuters.

ASEAN leaders, through a chairman’s statement, outlined five points of consensus for action:

  • There shall be immediate cessation of violence in Burma and all parties shall exercise the utmost restraint.
  • Constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful resolution.
  • A special envoy of the ASEAN chair shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the secretary-general of ASEAN.
  • ASEAN shall provide humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance.
  • The special envoy and delegation shall visit Burma to meet with all parties concerned.

“He said he heard us, (and) he would take the point(s) in, which he considered helpful,” Lee said of Min Aung Hlaing, according to Reuters. The process, however, has a long way to go, Lee said. “It is one thing to say you will cease violence and release political prisoners. It is another thing to get it done,” Lee said, according to Reuters.

Min Aung Hlaing released no immediate comments following the meeting. A military-operated news bulletin in Burma reported on his attendance, saying that Burma intended to cooperate with ASEAN on issues including “the political transition in Myanmar, and the process that will be implemented in the future,” Reuters reported.

In addition to Burma, the ASEAN bloc consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.