SINGAPORE – The release of Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi is key to achieving a "long-term peaceful political solution" to the country's current unrest, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on Monday (1 March).
"We call on all parties in Myanmar to engage in discussions and negotiations in good faith, to pursue a long-term peaceful political solution for national reconciliation, including (getting back to the) path of democratic transition.
"And we believe this can only begin if President Win Myint, State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, and other detainees are immediately released," said Dr Balakrishnan during the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Committee of Supply debate.
Myanmar has been facing weeks of protests, which have become increasingly deadly, since the country's military ousted the elected civilian government in a coup on 1 February. The military explained that the takeover was a reaction to inaction by the government over complaints of widespread voter fraud in last year's national elections.
According to a UN human rights envoy, at least 18 people were killed and 30 wounded in protests across several cities on Sunday – the highest single-day death toll so far – while about 1,000 people are thought to have been detained.
In his speech, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that the halting of all acts of violence and the use of lethal force should be an "immediate priority".
"Yesterday, there was a significant escalation in violence across cities in Myanmar. Security forces shot at civilians with live rounds, rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas. Many deaths and injuries were caused. We are appalled by the use of lethal force against civilians," he said.
"We strongly reiterate that the use of lethal weapons against unarmed civilians is inexcusable under all circumstances. We call on the Myanmar military authorities to exercise utmost restraint, desist from the use of lethal force, and take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation to prevent further violence, bloodshed, and deaths," added Dr Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan added that the prolonged instability in Myanmar would also have "serious consequences" for Asean and the region. He noted that despite Asean's policy of consensus and non-interference, the 10-member grouping can still facilitate a "return to normalcy and stability" in Myanmar.
"This was why Singapore strongly supported Asean’s efforts (to resolve the Myanmar crisis) from the outset... We believe in engagement and dialogue in good faith with all relevant stakeholders," said Dr Balakrishnan.
He added that a special Asean foreign ministers' meeting would be held via video conference on Tuesday to listen to a representative from Myanmar's military authorities.
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