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ASEAN calls on Myanmar military junta to halt violence against protesters, free prisoners

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This handout photo from the Myanmar News Agency (MNA) taken and released on June 4, 2021 shows Myanmar armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (R) meeting with Brunei's Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Erywan Yusof (3rd L) and ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi (2nd L) in Naypyidaw. (Via AFP)

Southeast Asian foreign ministers have urged Myanmar junta to halt violence, free prisoners and start its agreed dialogue amid a surge in daily protest rallies and public demonstrations following the Feb. 1 coup in the country.

On the sidelines of a Monday meeting in China, which was also attended by the Myanmar junta's foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called for the immediate and transparent implementation of a five-point consensus agreed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April.

"Indonesia is really hoping that the implementation of the five points of consensus need to be pushed after this meeting with, once again, a transparent process," the top Indonesian diplomat was quoted as saying. 

This is while her Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, who spoke in strong terms, said the bloc was disappointed at "very, very slow progress" in Myanmar and was united in stressing the need for action by the country's military rulers.

He also pointed out that the appointment of a regional special envoy, which has yet to be agreed, "only makes sense if there is a genuine desire within Myanmar itself for genuine dialogue and negotiations and reconciliation." 

Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, for his part, said ASEAN must admit that progress on the consensus was “painfully slow."

"The int'l (international) community is awaiting ASEAN's further action," he added.

The remarks follow a visit to Myanmar by two ASEAN envoys during which they urged the junta to free all political prisoners. The ASEAN envoys met junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

Myanmar's military rulers have shown little sign of heeding April's accord among the 10 ASEAN countries, which calls for an end to violence, political talks and the naming of a regional special envoy.  

Opponents of the junta have voiced frustration at the lack of tough action by ASEAN.

Myanmar has been in chaos in recent months with the junta struggling to impose control since ousting the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to her legal team, Suu Kyi, 75, will go on trial in the capital Naypyidaw, where she is charged with violating restrictions during last year's election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.

Proceedings will start on June 14 and are expected to wrap up by July 26.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have been allowed to meet with her just twice since she was placed under house arrest.

Suu Kyi will also appear in a separate trial slated to begin on June 15, where she is charged with sedition alongside ousted president, Win Myint, and senior National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Dr Myo Aung.

Myanmar has been in uproar since Suu Kyi and her NLD government was ousted in early February, with near-daily protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement.

Almost 850 people have been killed and thousands others arrested by military forces since the junta seized power, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group.

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