Myanmar urged to avoid violence after junta opponents revolt

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September 8 (Reuters) – Countries in Southeast Asia and West have urged all parties in Myanmar to refrain from violence and allow humanitarian aid, after a shadow government, formed by opponents of the military regime, declared a national uprising against the junta.

The Government of National Unity (NUG) said on Tuesday it was launching a “popular defensive war”, signaling what appeared to be an attempt to coordinate groups fighting the military as well as calls for troops and officials to change their position. camp.

A military spokesperson dismissed the call for revolt as a ploy to get the world’s attention and said it would not succeed. Read more

No cases of violence were immediately reported on Wednesday, although security forces were beefed up in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. A day earlier, there had been protests and an upsurge in fighting between the army and ethnic minority insurgents.

“All parties must prioritize the safety and well-being of the Burmese people,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told Reuters, noting that humanitarian aid could only be delivered if the situation on the ground was safe.

Indonesia took the lead among Myanmar’s neighbors in trying to resolve a crisis sparked when the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

The security forces killed hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators and some opponents of the military regime formed armed groups under the banner of the People’s Defense Forces.

They also forged alliances with ethnic minority groups struggling for self-determination who have long viewed Myanmar’s military as their enemy.

But it remains to be seen to what extent the NUG can influence the course of events.

“The NUG statement received strong support on Myanmar social media,” said Richard Horsey, a Myanmar expert at the International Crisis Group.

But he said it was not clear whether opposition forces had the capacity to step up the fight against Myanmar’s well-equipped army and that NUG’s declaration of “war” could backfire. by making it more difficult for some countries to support it.

‘BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD’

British Ambassador to Myanmar Pete Vowles said in a Facebook post “we strongly condemn the coup and the brutality of the junta” and urge “all parties to engage in dialogue”.

As Western countries imposed sanctions to put pressure on the junta, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations led efforts for a diplomatic solution, but some members of the bloc became enraged by the lack of progress.

“I can only say that we are frustrated that the five-point consensus could not be implemented as quickly as possible,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said, referring to a plan presented to the junta in April to end the violence. an online press conference.

But referring to NUG’s call for revolt, he said: “Now with the last event you really have to get back to the drawing board.”

An ASEAN envoy to Myanmar reportedly said over the weekend that the military had accepted his proposal for a ceasefire until the end of the year to ensure the distribution of humanitarian aid.

But no party to the conflict has confirmed this.

In Washington, a spokesperson for the US State Department noted the declaration of a “people’s defensive war” but called for peace to allow the delivery of aid and medicine, RFA reported (Radio Free Asia ) funded by the United States.

“The United States does not tolerate violence as a solution to the current crisis (…) and calls on all parties to remain peaceful,” the spokesperson said.

Unlike most Western countries which have condemned the military for overthrowing Suu Kyi’s government, China, which has considerable economic interests in Myanmar, has taken a softer line and has said its priorities are stability and not to interfere with his neighbor.

China’s state-owned newspaper Global Times has warned that if Western countries militarily support anti-junta forces, it could spark violent unrest.

“If armed clashes are allowed and extremist political action is encouraged, then the country will be plagued by endless battles and unrest,” he said in an opinion piece.

Reporting by Reuters staff Editing by Ed Davies Editing by Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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