Asean urges Myanmar to end violence, seek national reconciliation

Asean foreign ministers yesterday urged the Myanmar military to desist from violence and respect the will of the Myanmar people, as the regime continued cracking down on protests against the Feb 1 coup.

The messages were conveyed during the informal Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers meeting yesterday, which was attended by Mr Wunna Maung Lwin, the top envoy appointed by Myanmar's military regime after the coup.

The online meeting came two days after security forces killed at least 18 people in the bloodiest crackdown yet on swelling protests nationwide.

"Asean wants to continue to engage and to be helpful and to be constructive wherever possible. But ultimately, the solution lies within Myanmar itself," Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the media after the meeting.

"The only way you're going to get a long-term sustainable viable solution is for national reconciliation to occur, and in particular we call for the release of the president Win Myint and state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the other political detainees."

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that Singapore has not recognised the regime as Myanmar's government but recognises that the country's Constitution provides for a special role for the military. These include a quarter of all seats in Parliament and control of key ministries.

Asean, which operates by consensus, has shied away from condemning the coup in its member state Myanmar, unlike the United States and other Western countries.

This, and the recent shuttle diplomacy of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, has kept the door open to talks with the junta.

Ms Retno said Asean is ready to facilitate dialogue when required. But "Asean's hopes and well-meaning intentions to help will not materialise if Myanmar does not open its doors to Asean".