(Reuters) -Myanmar’s newly formed government of national unity urged neighbouring countries to not recognise the junta that seized power in February and to negotiate with it instead as part of any attempt to solve the crisis that began with the coup.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been trying to find a way out of the bloody turmoil that has racked fellow member Myanmar since the military ousted an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1.
The military has shown little willingness to engage with its neighbours and no sign of wanting to talk to members of the government it ousted.
But in the first hint of progress for the grouping, a Thai government official said on Saturday junta chief Min Aung Hlaing would attend an ASEAN summit in Indonesia on April 24.
It will be the military chief’s first known foreign trip and meeting with foreign leaders since he seized power. The junta has not commented on the ASEAN meeting.
Moe Zaw Oo, a deputy minister of foreign affairs in a National Unity Government (NUG) set up last week, said ASEAN should not recognise the junta.
“If ASEAN is considering action related to Myanmar affairs, I’d like to say it won’t succeed unless it negotiates with the NUG, which is supported by the people and has complete legitimacy,” Moe Zaw Oo told Voice of America’s Burmese-language service in an interview published on Sunday.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed 737 people in their efforts to end protests against the coup, activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.
The violence has drawn condemnation from Western countries and unprecedented criticism from several members of ASEAN despite a bloc principle of not interfering in each other’s affairs.
Pro-democracy politicians including ousted members of parliament from Suu Kyi’s party announced the formation of the NUG on Friday. It includes Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup, as well as leaders of the pro-democracy protests and ethnic minorities.
The NUG says it is the legitimate authority and has called for international recognition and an invitation to the ASEAN meeting in Min Aung Hlaing’s place.
“It’s very important that the junta council is not recognised,” Moe Zaw Oo told VOA, adding the unity government had not been invited to the meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
A spokesman for the junta did not answer calls seeking comment.
Crowds were out on the streets of several towns on Sunday to show support for the NUG.
Security forces shot and killed two protesters in the ruby-mining town of Mogok on Saturday and several small bombs went off in the main city of Yangon, killing one soldier and wounding several people, media outlets reported.
There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts but the military, which has accused protesters of carrying out bomb attacks, launched sweeps after midnight on Saturday and rounded up 30 people in a hunt for the bombers, the AAPP said.
Military-run Myawaddy TV broadcast pictures of six people it said had been arrested after being found with homemade weapons. Most of them appeared to have been beaten, showing bloody abrasions on their faces.
In all, the military had issued arrest warrants for 930 people since the coup, the AAPP said, including actors, singers and internet celebrities who have spoken out against the coup, on a charge of encouraging dissent in the armed forces.
On Sunday, state media announced the names of another 20 doctors wanted on the charge and said hospitals that harbour wanted people would be stripped of their licences. Medical staff have been at the forefront of protests.
The military has defended its coup alleging the result of November’s election was fraudulent, although the election commission dismissed such objections.
Suu Kyi faces several charges, the most serious of which is violating an official secrets act that could see her jailed for 14 years. Her lawyers reject the charges.
Reporting by Reuters staffWriting by Robert BirselEditing by Lincoln Feast and Raissa Kasolowsky
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