Monday, October 18, 2021

Singapore urges Myanmar army to start talks for peace

The civilian death toll has continued to rise as the army tries in vain to suppress protests by what it calls terrorist groups.

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Southeast Asian countries should keep pressing the Myanmar coup leaders to show restraint and start dialogue with their opponents, Singapore’s foreign minister said today, reports Reuters.

Members of Asean said after meeting junta leader Min Aung Hlaing last month they had reached consensus on finding an end to violence, talks between Myanmar’s internal rivals, and a visit by an Asean envoy.

But the civilian death toll has continued to rise as the army tries in vain to suppress protests by what it calls terrorist groups.

The junta has also said it will not agree to the envoy’s visit before it restores stability.

“This will not be an easy process. The cooperation of the Tatmadaw will be needed,” said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in a response to parliamentary questions, using the widely used name for Myanmar’s army.

“Asean will also have to continue to speak collectively to urge the Myanmar military authorities to uphold the consensus – particularly to exercise maximum restraint and begin meaningful dialogue with all parties concerned.”

Balakrishnan’s comments were one of the clearest public responses from an Asean country since Myanmar’s army appeared to distance themselves from the consensus at the meeting in Jakarta.

A shadow National Unity Government set up by the junta’s opponents has also voiced scepticism over the Asean deal and has said there can be no talks until thousands of political prisoners are freed – including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Balakrishnan said Asean should continue to call for the release of Suu Kyi and others.

Some of Asean’s 10 countries have urged the junta in Myanmar – a member state – to free the political prisoners, but doing so was not part of the consensus agreed at last month’s meeting.

The United Nations said today that nearly 800 people have been killed by the army since the coup.

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