Myanmar should cease lethal force, free Aung San Suu Kyi: Vivian Balakrishnan

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday called on all parties in Myanmar to find a way to return to the path of democratic transition.

"We believe this can only begin if President U Win Myint, State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, and the other political detainees are immediately released," he told Parliament during the debate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' budget.

At least 18 people were killed on Sunday as the military regime that ousted the National League for Democracy and its leaders a month ago cracked down on protesters across the country.

The escalation in violence, which saw security forces shoot at civilians with live rounds, and use stun grenades and tear gas, has drawn global condemnation.

"We are appalled by the use of lethal force against civilians," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"We call on the Myanmar military authorities to exercise utmost restraint, to desist from the use of lethal force, and to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation to prevent further bloodshed, violence and death," he added.

He also warned that prolonged instability would have serious consequences for Myanmar, Asean, and the region.

The regional grouping called for "dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy" the day the military coup was staged on Feb 1.

Yesterday, Workers' Party MP Dennis Tan (Hougang) had asked for an update on Singapore's position on the crisis in Myanmar.

Mr Tan pointed out that with South-east Asia as a focal point for intensifying competition between the US and China, any inability to respond to the Myanmar situation on Asean's part could spur further contestation among major powers.

In his reply, Dr Balakrishnan also described the recent developments in Myanmar as of grave concern to Singapore and Asean.

Asean foreign ministers will hold a special meeting via videoconference today, where the ministers will listen to the representative of the Myanmar military authorities.