Myanmar’s interim gov urges ASEAN not to welcome junta leader

A 2019 photo of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense
A 2019 photo of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense

Myanmar’s newly formed National Unity Government said it does not want ASEAN to recognize junta leader Min Aung Hlaing amid reports that he will attend the bloc’s summit this coming weekend.

The provisional government’s foreign ministry said that were ASEAN serious about helping to resolve Myanmar’s crisis, it would negotiate with it instead, days after announcing that it had formed an interim cabinet and vowed to assemble a federal army.

The emergency ASEAN summit is set to take place Saturday in Jakarta.

On Friday, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw held an online press conference to announce the members of its interim cabinet, including a president, state counsellor, vice president, prime minister, and 11 ministers. In a nod to its promise to better represent Myanmar’s people, 13 of the 26 cabinet members are from ethnic groups; eight are women.

Deposed President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi kept their positions despite being held in military detention. Duwa Lashi La was appointed vice president.

At the conclusion of the Thingyan holidays, Duwa Lashi La cited two main objectives for the interim government in a New Year’s address, saying its authority must be rooted in the people and must seek international recognition.

In addition, he said it would establish a federal army to achieve those aims while pursuing diplomacy to win recognition abroad.

“We conclude by pledging that we will continue to work with all ethnic peoples to overthrow the military dictatorship and establish a new federal democracy,” he said Saturday.

Lwin Ko Latt, who was appointed Home Affairs and Immiration minister, said they expect many countries, including Western nations, to recognize their National Unity Government as the country’s legitimate administration.

“Some Western countries as well as an Arab World member country that witnessed the Arab Spring, which we greatly admire and envy, will support us,” he told reporters Friday.

On Thursday, the US State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs said two top officials had talked with members of the interim government about restoring democracy in Myanmar.

“We firmly support the people of Burma, who oppose military rule and yearn for peace,” the department, which uses Myanmar’s former name, said in a tweet.

Nonetheless, “the people of Myanmar are ready to take great risks and pay a great price for their rights and freedom,” Foreign Affairs Minister Zin Mar Aung wrote Friday in a New York Times op-ed entitled “How to Defeat Myanmar’s Military.”

Today anger was swelling after photos showing the bruised faces of two female students and others beaten by security forces were published online last night. Military-run media said they were charged with attacking a police station Saturday in Yangon’s northern Yankin Township. They were reportedly taken into custody Sunday and severely beaten, though the images could not be independently verified.

Prior to that, the junta during the weekend released 23,407 prisoners nationwide, including 800 from Yangon’s Insein Prison, as part of annual new year’s amnesty, though none involved in anti-coup protests or members of the deposed ruling party were believed among them.

According to Thailand-based human rights group AAPP Burma, 737 people have been killed by junta security forces since the Feb. 1 coup d’etat, and 3,229 have been detained.

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