San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Asian leaders call on military junta to cease killings
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Southeast Asian leaders demanded an immediate end to killings and the release of political detainees in Myanmar in an emergency summit with its top general and coup leader Saturday in the Indonesian capital, Indonesia’s president said.
The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also told Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing during the talks in Jakarta that a dialogue between contending parties in Myanmar should immediately start, with the help of ASEAN envoys, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said.
“The situation in Myanmar is unacceptable and should not continue. Violence must be stopped, democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be returned immediately,” Widodo said during the meeting. “The interests of the people of Myanmar must always be the priority.”
Daily shootings by police and soldiers since the Feb. 1 coup have killed more than 700 mostly peaceful protesters and bystanders, according to several independent tallies.
The messages conveyed to Min Aung Hlaing were unusually blunt and could be seen as a breach of the conservative 10nation bloc’s bedrock principle forbidding member states from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs. But Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that policy should not lead to inaction if a domestic situation “jeopardizes the peace, security, and stability of ASEAN and the wider region” and there is international clamor for resolute action.
“There is a tremendous expectation on the part of the international community on how ASEAN is addressing the Myanmar issue. The pressure is increasing,” Muhyiddin said.
Such a political dialogue “can only take place with the prompt and unconditional release of political detainees,” the Malaysian premier said.
A formal statement issued by ASEAN after the summit outlined the demands made by the heads of state in more subtle terms. It asked for the “immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar” and urged all parties to “exercise utmost restraint,” but omitted the demand voiced by Widodo and other leaders for the immediate release of political detainees. It said ASEAN would provide humanitarian aid to Myanmar.
It was the first time Min Aung Hlaing traveled out of Myanmar since the coup, which was followed by the arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and many other political leaders.