Myanmar will again protest against military rule on Wednesday as Indonesia wanted to build a diplomatic coalition between other Southeast Asian countries to find a way out of the political crisis.
This week there were major rallies and a general strike on Monday to denounce the military coup on February 1 and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite threats from authorities that the confrontation could kill people.
On Tuesday the gatherings were generally smaller, but a multi-ethnic rally was planned for Wednesday in Mayangone in northern Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi plans to fly to Myanmar for the first known visit by a foreign envoy on Thursday to stimulate diplomatic efforts. This emerges from a leaked Myanmar government document.
However, their visit cannot be welcomed by some pro-democracy activists who are concerned that a settlement with the military could undermine their demands that the November election results, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a Landslide, be respected.
The generals have alleged fraud in the elections even though the electoral commission found no evidence and said they will hold new elections at an unspecified time.
Retno has tried to build support for a special meeting in Myanmar, Southeast Asia, and sources told Reuters that Jakarta has suggested that the region send observers to ensure that the generals hold “fair and inclusive elections.”
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Indonesian embassy in Yangon on Tuesday to express their opposition to the nomination, while members of the Muslim community in Myanmar were due to protest again on Wednesday.
Protesters outside the Indonesian embassy in Bangkok urged Southeast Asian diplomats to respect the results of the November elections in Myanmar [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]Future Nation Alliance, a Myanmar-based activist group, said in a statement that a visit to Retno was “tantamount to recognizing the military junta.”
The group called on foreign officials to meet with Htin Lin Aung, a representative of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee (CRPH), who was appointed by overthrown lawmakers and appointed “the sole officer in charge of external relations.”
A spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Retno was in Thailand and could then travel to other countries in the region, but could not confirm either of the two statements. Earlier, he said Indonesia was not in favor of holding new elections.
The group of seven (G7) rich nations on Tuesday condemned the intimidation and repression of those who spoke out against the coup after two protesters died over the weekend.
“Anyone who reacts to peaceful protests with violence must be held accountable,” said the group’s foreign ministers in a joint statement.
The army has arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and most of the party leadership and members of the electoral commission. Internet blackouts have also been imposed in the past 10 days.
At a meeting with his governing council on Monday, Major General Min Aung Hlaing focused on the economy and called for a cut in government spending and imports.
“The Council needs to put its energies into revitalizing the country’s ailing economy. Economic remedial action must be taken, ”the state media quoted him as saying.
Min Aung Hlaing did not directly link the protests to economic problems, but said the police used minimal force such as rubber bullets to cope with the daily demonstrations, according to state media.
Security forces have shown more restraint so far than in previous protests. In 1988 and 2007, people who campaigned for democracy were confronted with brutal violence.
Nevertheless, this time three demonstrators were shot dead. The army said a policeman died as a result of the protests.
The military has accused protesters of provoking violence, but United Nations Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said the millions who marched in a “breathtaking” turnout on Monday showed they were ready to face military threats.
Western nations tried this week to increase pressure on the generals and the European Union warned against considering sanctions against army-owned companies.
The United States imposed sanctions on two other military officers involved in the coup and warned against taking further action.
Neighboring China, which has traditionally taken a softer line, said any international action should contribute to stability, promote reconciliation and avoid complicating the situation, the media reported.