FEATURE-ASEAN under pressure to withdraw summit invite to Myanmar coup leader

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s planned attendance at the Saturday meeting has drawn criticism in the face of human-rights abuses in Myanmar.

General Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance at the upcoming ASEAN summit has drawn criticism due to Myanmar human-rights abuses. File photo: Pexels

CAPE TOWN, APRIL 22 (ANA) – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged Asian leaders to work collectively with the international community to find a diplomatic solution to Myanmar’s crisis, triggered by a military coup in February, which has killed hundreds of civilians.

The leader of Myanmar’s military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is due to attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Indonesia on Saturday, his first confirmed international travel since he took power in the coup, according to Al Jazeera.

His planned attendance has sparked a backlash. In a statement dated Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said ASEAN should revoke its invitation to Min Aung Hlaing to the meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

On social media, protesters using the hashtag “AseanrejectSAC” have added pressure on the regional grouping to reconsider the invitation, arguing that letting him sit at the table with other leaders gives credibility to the coup, the South China Morning Post reported.

The ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in Myanmar sparked nationwide pro-democracy protests, drawing hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to the streets.

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union placed financial and travel restrictions on Min Aung Hlaing for his role as military commander-in-chief, accusing him of gross human rights abuses.

“Min Aung Hlaing, who faces international sanctions for his role in military atrocities and the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, should not be welcomed at an intergovernmental gathering to address a crisis he created,” Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said in Wednesday’s statement posted on the rights group’s website.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), which has been fighting the military-led regime since February, has asked global police organisation Interpol to collaborate with Indonesian law enforcement to apprehend junta Min Aung Hlaing when he visits Jakarta for the ASEAN summit, according to Nikkei Asia.

In an open letter, the NUG also urged ASEAN to assist it in holding the junta accountable for the chaos it created.

The UN’s Guterres stressed the importance of cooperation with ASEAN, saying the situation called for a strong international response.

“I have repeatedly called on the international community to work, collectively and through bilateral channels, to help bring an end to the violence and the repression by the military,” Guterres said in a statement.

“I urge regional actors to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and, ultimately, find a peaceful way out of this catastrophe.“

A tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) says 3,141 people have been detained in connection with the coup, including Suu Kyi.

According to the AAPP, the military is now looking for 832 people linked to the demonstrations.

Among them are more than 200 individuals, including actors, musicians and internet celebrities, who have spoken out against the coup and are wanted on a charge of promoting dissent in the armed forces, which carries a three-year prison sentence.

Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi faces several charges including breaking an official secrets act, which could land her in prison for 14 years.

– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa

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