Myanmar army says no ASEAN envoy visit until stability restored

At least 774 people have been killed and more than 3,700 detained in the military’s crackdown on opponents as army raids against ethnic rebels surge.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which unleashed anger amongst a public unwilling to tolerate a return to military rule [Stringer/Reuters]

Myanmar’s ruling military, which is facing nationwide protests against the coup that removed the elected government three months ago, has said that it would not agree to a visit by a Southeast Asian envoy until it could establish stability, prompting concerns that it would carry out more deadly violence against demonstrators and ethnic minorities.

Leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had reached consensus on five points at a summit on the Myanmar crisis last month, which was attended by the architect of the February 1 coup, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

These included an end to violence, dialogue between the military and its opponents, allowing humanitarian help, and permitting a visit by a special ASEAN envoy.

“Right now, we are prioritising the security and stability of the country,” Major Kaung Htet San, a spokesman for the military council, told a televised briefing on Friday.

“Only after we achieve a certain level of security and stability, we will cooperate regarding that envoy.”

The military government would consider suggestions made at the summit if they were helpful to its visions for the country, he added.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which unleashed anger among a public unwilling to tolerate a return to military rule after five decades of economic mismanagement and underdevelopment.

Protests and marches have taken place on most days, the latest a big pro-democracy demonstration on Friday in the commercial capital Yangon, and smaller protests in at least 10 other places around the country.

More warrantless arrest, detentions

At least 774 people have been killed and more than 3,700 detained in the military’s crackdown on opponents, according to an advocacy group monitoring the crisis.

On Saturday, social media posts said that several people in Yangon were taken by security forces without warrants.

The military said it is battling “terrorists”. On Friday, spokesman Kaung Htet San said more arrests of instigators of violence had been made than were publicly announced.

The April 24 ASEAN meeting in Jakarta was hailed as a success by those who attended, but analysts and activists remain sceptical that Myanmar’s generals will implement the five-point plan, which had no timeframe nor any mention of releasing political prisoners, including overthrown leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kaung Htet San said ASEAN leaders had provided positive suggestions to Min Aung Hlaing, but whether or not they would be followed depended on the situation in Myanmar, and if their ideas were “helpful to our further visions”.

Conflicts reignited

The prospect of stability anytime soon in Myanmar appears bleak, with a reigniting of conflict between the military and ethnic minority groups in the borderlands and minor bombings and explosions now taking place regularly in its main cities.

The military said it is fighting rogue elements of ethnic armies and all parties remain committed to a nationwide ceasefire.

It has also blamed the spate of urban bombings on supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s deposed government. At least four bombings were reported early Saturday.

A recently formed National Unity Government, a coalition of anti-military groups, said the military orchestrated the bombings as a pretext to crush its opponents.

Two local media outlets on Friday reported that fighters from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked and killed 30 Myanmar troops as they tried to travel on a river, citing local people and a KIA source.

The KIA also accused the military of using restricted chemical bombs during current air raids, according to news reports from Kachin state.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the information due to reporting restrictions.

Kaung Htet San said violence and armed conflicts would be dealt with by the military “in a suitable way”.

Elderly villagers from King village take a rest on Friday after they fled fighting that broke out between fellow villagers and the Myanmar military in Kani township in the Sagaing region [Handout/Anonymous via AFP]

The military has for months limited access to the internet in an effort to disrupt the anti-coup movement and this week banned satellite television receivers of outside broadcasts.

Kaung Htet San said the military respected the public’s right to access information, but overseas-based social networks were being used to share material that was “very alarming for national security”.

He also said security would be intensified to protect strategic gas pipelines, following an attack on security personnel at one location nearly Mandalay this week.

Myanmar has twin oil and gas pipelines that stretch across the country to China, a country many in Myanmar believe enabled generals to amass vast personal wealth from natural resources, at a time of crippling sanctions and international isolation.

China has said it takes no sides in the conflict and wants a stable Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the Washington, DC-based US Campaign 4 Burma continue to press the United Nations Security Council to help stop the violence in Myanmar by supporting a global arms embargo against the country’s military, which instigated the coup.

“An arms embargo, while not a solution to all of Burma’s problems, will significantly increase the safety of the people of Burma, including all ethnic and religious minorities,” the group said, referring to the country by its old name.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies