Myanmar shadow government seeks invite to Asean crisis talks
Unrest continues across the country with protesters rallying in several cities showing support for the NUG while some stage motorbike rallies holding national flags
Myanmar’s shadow government on Sunday urged Southeast Asian leaders to give it a seat at the table during crisis talks next week, and not to recognise the military regime that seized power in a February coup.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is expected to join a special Asean summit on Myanmar on Saturday in Jakarta -- his first official overseas trip since the putsch that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The army has moved to quell mass protests against its rule, killing at least 730 people, according to a local monitoring group.
Min Aung Hlaing’s invitation to the meeting of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations has drawn scorn from activists who have urged foreign leaders not to formally recognise the junta.
Moe Zaw Oo, deputy minister of foreign affairs for the parallel “National Unity Government ( NUG)” -- formed on Friday by ousted lawmakers mostly from Suu Kyi’s party, as well as ethnic-minority politicians -- said Asean had not reached out to them.
“If Asean wants to help solve the Myanmar situation, they are not going to achieve anything without consulting and negotiating with the NUG, which is supported by the people and has full legitimacy,” he told Voice of America’s Burmese service.
“It’s important that this military council is not recognised. This needs to be handled carefully.” Meanwhile, the junta continued targeting the media on Sunday, arresting Japanese freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi.
He was arrested at his home in Yangon on Sunday evening, his assistant said in a message.
In February, he was beaten up and briefly detained during a crackdown on protesters but was later released.
The number of reporters arrested so far has totalled more than 65 and at least 34 remain in custody, according to monitoring group Reporting Asean.
Authorities announced on Sunday night on state-run television 20 more celebrities and 20 more doctors would be added to their arrest warrant list of 420 prominent people.
Earlier unrest continued across the country on Sunday, with protesters rallying in Mandalay, Meiktila, Magway and Myingyan, showing support for the national unity government.
At Palaw in the country’s south, demonstrators brandished banners that read: “Military dictators should not be allowed to rule. The dictatorship will be uprooted. Support the national unity government.” Young demonstrators also staged motorbike rallies while carrying flags in Hpakant and Sagaing.
The previous night, there were violent clashes in the central gem-producing city of Mogok when security forces cracked down on protesters.
According to a verified video filmed by a resident, soldiers crouched on a street as their commanding officer shouted that he wanted “deaths.” The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners ( AAPP) verified two deaths at Mogok.
Much of Myanmar remains under a curfew imposed shortly ater the coup, running from 8pm to 4am every night.
Late Saturday, a young man was shot and killed in Kyaukme town in northern Shan state while riding his motorbike during the curfew.
“He was shot by the authorities when he and other his friends drove motorbikes around 9pm. He was shot in the head,” a rescue worker said, adding that his funeral would take place Sunday.
The junta on Saturday released more than 23,000 prisoners to mark the traditional new year holiday, including at least three political detainees.
It wasn’t immediately clear if those released included pro-democracy activists who were detained for protesting the coup.
State broadcaster MRTV said that junta chief had pardoned 23,047 prisoners, including 137 foreigners who will be deported from Myanmar. He also reduced sentences for others.
Among those released Saturday from Yangon’s Insein Prison were at least three political prisoners who were jailed in 2019.
They are members of the Peacock Generation performing troupe who were arrested during that year’s new year celebrations for skits that poked fun at military representatives in Parliament and military involvement in business.