GENEVA: The UN’s top expert on rights in Myanmar on Tuesday challenged junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to commit publically to ending violence in the country.
Thomas Andrews, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, wrote an open letter to the senior general, urging him to tell the country’s people they were free to oppose his rule without fear of injury or arbitrary arrest.
Since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb 1 coup, Myanmar has been in an uproar with near-daily protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
Min Aung Hlaing attended a weekend meeting of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations – his first overseas trip since he seized power – called to discuss the mounting crisis.
Asean leaders at the Jakarta summit issued a “five-point consensus” statement that called for the “immediate cessation of violence” and a visit to Myanmar by a regional special envoy.
At the meeting, “you reportedly agreed, through a consensus document released at the conclusion of the meeting, to an ‘immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar'”, Andrews wrote to the junta chief.
“This is an imperative first step toward ending a crisis that has already cost more than 750 lives, including the lives of young children, at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces.”
The letter went on to press him for a public commitment to it.
Andrews also urged Min Aung Hlaing to act on appeals made by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to release all political prisoners detained since Feb 1 promptly and unconditionally.
Myanmar’s junta said Tuesday it would heed regional pleas to stop violence only when the country “returns to stability”, as fresh fighting erupted with a major ethnic rebel group along its eastern border.