‘Recognise unity govt, not the junta’

Show of support: Anti-government protesters holding placards to show their support and welcome the new National Unity Government led by ousted NLD legislators in Yangon. — Reuters

THE country’s neighbours have to negotiate with a newly-formed government of national unity if they want to help resolve the turmoil triggered by a Feb 1 military coup and they should not recognise the junta, a unity government official said.

The 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) has been trying to find a way out of the bloody crisis that has racked fellow member Myanmar since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has shown little willingness to engage with its neighbours and no sign of wanting to talk with the government it ousted.

But in the first hint of progress for the grouping, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing will attend an Asean summit in Indonesia on April 24, a Thai government official said on Saturday.

It will be the military chief’s first known foreign trip and meeting with foreign leaders since he seized power.

The junta has not commented on the Asean meeting.

Moe Zaw Oo, a deputy minister of foreign affairs in a National Unity Government (NUG) set up last week, said Asean should not recognise the Myanmar junta.

“If Asean is considering action related to Myanmar affairs, I’d like to say it won’t succeed unless it negotiates with the NUG, which is supported by the people and has complete legitimacy, ” Moe Zaw Oo told Voice of America’s Burmese-language service in an interview published yesterday.

Pro-democracy politicians including ousted members of parliament from Suu Kyi’s party announced the formation of the NUG on Friday.

It includes Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup, as well as leaders of the pro-democracy protests and ethnic minorities.

The NUG has called for international recognition as the legitimate authority and had requested an invitation to the Asean meeting in Hlaing’s place.

“It’s very important that the junta council is not recognised, ” Moe Zaw Oo told VOA, adding the unity government had not been invited to the meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Myanmar’s security forces have killed 730 people in their efforts to end protests against the coup, activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says, drawing condemnation from Western countries and unprecedented criticism from several members of Asean despite a bloc principle of not interfering in each other’s affairs.

Crowds have been out on the streets of several towns in Myanmar over the weekend to show support for the NUG.

On Saturday, the junta 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 junta chief Hlaing had pardoned 23,047 prisoners, including 137 foreigners who will be deported from Myanmar.

As security forces continued the deadly crackdown, unconfirmed but credible accounts with photos on social media said three people were killed on Saturday in the central city of Mogok, in Myanmar’s gem mining region. — Agencies

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