Myanmar unity govt asks for a seat at Asean meeting in junta's place

Set up last week by pro-democracy politicians, NUG requests invitation to Asean meeting in junta's place

YANGON: Myanmar'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 Asean has been trying to find a way out of the crisis that has racked member Myanmar since the military ousted an elected government led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has shown little willingness to talk to its neighbours, but in the first hint of progress, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing will attend an Asean summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday, a Thai government official said.

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.

Deputy minister of foreign affairs Moe Zaw Oo in a National Unity Government (NUG) set up last week said that 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," Mr Moe Zaw Oo told Voice of America in an interview.

Pro-democracy politicians including ousted members of Parliament from Ms Suu Kyi's party announced the formation of the NUG on Friday. It includes Ms 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 requested an invitation to the Asean meeting in General Min Aung Hlaing's place.

"It is very important that the junta council is not recognised," Mr Moe Zaw Oo said, adding that the unity government had not been invited.

Myanmar's security forces have killed 730 people in their efforts to end the protests, according to activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, drawing condemnation from Western countries and criticism from several members of Asean despite a bloc principle of not interfering in one another's affairs.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga condemned the violence by Myanmar security forces against civilians.

"We... commit to continue taking action to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy," they said in a statement on Friday. The US embassy posted the statement on Twitter yesterday.

It did not refer to the NUG.

Crowds were out on the streets of several towns in Myanmar yesterday to show support for the NUG.

Security forces shot and killed two protesters in the ruby-mining town of Mogok on Saturday, a resident said.

Several small bombs went off in Yangon, killing one soldier and wounding several people, media outlets reported.

There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts. - REUTERS