Burmese Army Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is to join a special ASEAN summit on the weekend in his first official trip since masterminding a coup which deposed Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday.
The Feb. 1 coup triggered a massive uprising in Myanmar, bringing hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets to demand a return to democracy, while civil servants have boycotted work in a bid to shutter the junta’s administration.
The Burmese military junta has deployed lethal force to quell the anti-coup movement, killing more than 720 people and detaining about 3,100 democracy advocates, journalists and dissidents, a local monitoring group said.
The international community has largely condemned the generals for use of force against unarmed civilians — imposing targeted sanctions against top military brass, their families and military-linked businesses.
However, regional leaders have sought to open communications with the regime, and Thailand on Saturday confirmed that a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta on Myanmar’s situation would include the senior general.
“Several leaders have confirmed their attendance including Myanmar’s MAH [Min Aung Hlaing],” Thai foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat told reporters.
The meeting of the 10-country bloc on Saturday is expected to address the ongoing crisis in post-coup Myanmar.
The announcement drew dismay from democracy advocates, who have long beseeched foreign leaders not to recognize the junta.
“#ASEAN do not legitimize the Myanmar Military junta as a government by inviting MAH to attend the summit,” prominent democracy advocate Wai Wai Nu wrote on Twitter. “[The] Junta is illegitimate and illegal.”
By Saturday evening, #ASEANrejectSAC was among the top-trending hashtags on Myanmar’s twitter.
The military has consistently justified the coup by accusing the civilian government of widespread fraud in elections in November last year, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
The military says that power would be handed back to a civilian administration after elections are held in about a year ?- although it earlier this month extended the timeline to a two-year period.
Saturday was the first day of Myanmar’s traditional New Year’s festival, and hundreds in the commercial hub of Yangon visited the famed Shwedagon Pagoda to pray as soldiers patroled the streets.
More violence erupted in the central gem-producing city of Mogok, when security forces cracked down on protesters.
According to Agence France Presse-verified video footage filmed by a resident, soldiers crouched on a street as their commanding officer shouted that he wanted “deaths.”
A rescue worker told reporters that at least one had died.
“He was shot in the stomach,” he said, adding that six others were rushed to a hospital with injuries.
Despite the threat of violence, protesters have continued to gather across the country in defiance of the junta, carrying posters demanding for Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed.
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