Myanmar people slam Asean-junta consensus to end violence, but no immediate protests

YANGON (REUTERS) – People in Myanmar on Sunday (April 25) criticised an agreement between the country’s junta chief and Southeast Asian leaders to end the violence-hit nation’s crisis, saying it fell short of restoring democracy and holding the army accountable for hundreds of civilian deaths.

There were no immediate protests in Myanmar’s big cities a day after the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Jakarta, Indonesia, that agreed to end the violence but gave no roadmap on how this would happen.

But several people took to social media to criticise the deal.

“Asean’s statement is a slap on the face of the people who have been abused, killed and terrorised by the military,” said a Facebook user called Mawchi Tun.

“We do not need your help with that mindset and approach.”

According to a statement from group chair Brunei, a consensus was reached on five points – ending violence, a constructive dialogue among all parties, a special Asean envoy to facilitate the dialogue, acceptance of aid and a visit by the envoy to Myanmar.

The five-point consensus did not mention political prisoners, although the chairman’s statement said the meeting “heard calls” for their release.

Asean leaders had wanted a commitment from Gen Min Aung Hlaing to restrain his security forces, which the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) says have killed 748 people since a mass civil disobedience movement erupted to challenge his Feb 1 coup against the elected government of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

AAPP, a Myanmar activist group, says over 3,300 are in detention.

“Statement doesn’t reflect any of people’s desires,” wrote Nang Thit Lwin in a comment on a news story in domestic Myanmar media on the ASEAN deal.

“To release prisoners and detainees, to take responsibility for dead lives, to respect election results and restore democratic civilian government.”

Aaron Htwe, another Facebook user, wrote: “Who will pay the price for the over 700 innocent lives.”

The military has defended its coup by alleging that the landslide win by Ms Suu Kyi’s party of November’s election was fraudulent, although the election commission dismissed the objections.

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The Asean gathering was the first coordinated international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, an impoverished country that neighbours China, India and Thailand and has been in turmoil since the coup. Besides the protests, deaths and arrests, a nationwide strike has crippled economic activity.

Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG), comprised of pro-democracy figures, remnants of Ms Suu Kyi’s ousted administration and representatives of armed ethnic groups, said it welcomed the consensus reached but said the junta had to be held to its promises.

“We look forward to firm action by Asean to follow up its decisions and to restore our democracy,” said Dr Sasa, spokesman for the NUG.

Besides the junta chief, the leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei were at the meeting, along with the foreign ministers of Laos, Thailand and the Philippines.

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