Min Aung Hlaing blames opposition for violence after ASEAN snub

The Southeast Asian grouping decided to exclude coup leader from summit because of the lack of progress in a peace plan agreed in April.

Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing, snubbed by ASEAN leaders over this month’s regional summit, has said that while the military wanted to restore order and bring peace to a country plunged into turmoil by its February 1 coup, it was its opponents that were causing violence.

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing made the comments in an address on state television on Monday, after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced over the weekend that it would invite a “non-political” representative from Myanmar in an unprecedented snub that drew anger in the capital, Naypyidaw.

The leaders of ASEAN’s 10 members are due to meet on October 26.

Earlier, the shadow government, formed by opponents of the generals, welcomed the decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing.

The National Unity Government (NUG) said while it should be seen as the country’s legitimate representative, it was willing to accept an alternative that was truly neutral.

“ASEAN excluding Min Aung Hlaing is an important step, but we request that they recognise us as the proper representative,” said its spokesman Dr Sasa.

The military ended Myanmar’s gradual transition to democracy when it seized power just as parliament was due to convene following elections in November 2020 that returned Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power in a landslide. The NUG includes some NLD representatives who were among those removed.

The coup prompted mass protests amid widespread opposition to military rule and a crackdown by the generals.

The coup prompted widespread anger in Myanmar with the military responding with force.  Ending the violence was a key part of the five point consensus agreed with ASEAN in July [File: AP Photo]
Violence has continued despite the promises the military made to ASEAN in April. This handout photo taken on September 10, 2021 shows people attempting to extinguish a fire as houses burn in Nang Kar village in Magwe region’s Gangaw township [Anonymous source via AFP]

As part of measures agreed under a five-point action plan with ASEAN in April, the military was supposed to end violence and allow an ASEAN special envoy to visit the country to meet all parties, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since February 1.

After a special meeting that convened on Friday, ASEAN said there had been “insufficient progress” on the agreement to warrant Min Aung Hlaing being invited to this month’s summit.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision which it said was against the objectives of ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter and its principles.

The grouping, which operates on the principles of consensus and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, admitted Myanmar as a member in 1997 under a previous military government.

Security forces have killed some 1,178 people and arrested more than 9,000 since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group that has been tracking the situation.

The military has called its opponents “terrorists”, but on Monday announced in state television that it would release more than 5,636 people arrested over their roles in protests.

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