Malaysia calls on Myanmar to end killings, release political detainees

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for the creation of an ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar to engage with all parties in the crisis-torn country during a gathering Saturday of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta.

In a news conference late Saturday, Muhyidin said that Min Aung Hlaing told ASEAN leaders that he will find a way to solve the problem and agreed that violence must stop.

Besides the junta chief, the leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei were at the meeting, along with the foreign ministers of Laos, Thailand and the Philippines. "Violence must be stopped, democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be returned immediately", Widodo said during the meeting.

"We are hoping for a peaceful resolution to end the dispute", he said.

In a statement by the current ASEAN chair, the leaders expressed their grave concern over the situation in Myanmar.

"An inclusive dialogue process must be started".

"To release prisoners and detainees, to take responsibility for dead lives, to respect election results and restore democratic civilian government".

In Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital, scores of protesters chanted "What do we want?"

ASEAN SUMMIT In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Asean leaders convene during their meeting at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 24, 2021. He said major points would be included in a consensus statement to be released soon.

"He said he (Min Aung Hlaing) heard us, he would take the points in, which he considered helpful", said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, according to Channel NewsAsia television. This was echoed by a report by Malaysian state media Bernama, which quoted Muhyiddin as saying the general "responded well". United Nations special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, is expected on the sidelines of the summit. The face-to-face summit is the first by ASEAN leaders in more than a year. Thai and Philippine officials cited surging COVID-19 cases in their countries, while Laos has not provided an explanation.

Since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a 1 February coup, Myanmar has been in an uproar with near-daily protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement.

Human rights advocates questioned ASEAN's decision to invite the general. "I don't think the summit is going to bear out a full-blown plan on how to get Myanmar out of the conflict", said Mustafa Izzuddin, senior worldwide affairs analyst at Solaris Strategies Singapore.

A spokesperson from the shadow government - known as the National Unity Government (NUG) - on Saturday said ASEAN's statement was "encouraging news".

The NUG was recently established by pro-democracy politicians and ousted members of Myanmar's parliament. Police quickly moved them on.

ASEAN states agreed to meet Min Aung Hlaing but did not treat or address him as Myanmar's head of state in the summit, a Southeast Asian diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. They call the junta chief's invitation to the summit "unnecessary and open support for the illegal coup using violence".

The summit capped a flurry of diplomacy over the past few months and weeks.

"The interests of the Myanmar people must always be the priority", the Indonesian president said. The leaders also demanded that Myanmar's military government allow the arrival of humanitarian assistance. "Otherwise, it would be a waste of time", the deputy foreign minister said.

The Asean gathering was the first coordinated global effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, an impoverished country that neighbours China, India and Thailand and has been in turmoil since the coup. He called the meeting a success: "We have succeeded".

Despite the skepticism over the summit, some observers argued it was the best of few good options.

The messages conveyed to Min Aung Hlaing were unusually blunt and could be seen as a breach of the conservative 10-nation bloc's bedrock principle forbidding member states from interfering in each other's affairs.

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