Some 60 percent of protesters against the military coup are women who fear their hard-won rights hang in the balance.
Opponents of Myanmar’s military coup have declared that they have lost faith in regional diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in the country, as two ASEAN envoys met military ruler Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led the main international diplomatic effort to find a way out of the crisis in Myanmar, a country in turmoil since the military’s February 1 overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
“We have little confidence in ASEAN’s efforts. All of our hopes are gone,” said Moe Zaw Oo, a deputy foreign minister of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) that the military has declared treasonous, and whose members have been branded as “terrorists”.
“I don’t think they have a solid plan for their credibility,” he said of ASEAN on Friday.
Moe Zaw Oo was speaking in a streamed news conference that was disrupted across Myanmar by internet outages.
Two sources briefed on the outage, who declined to be identified for security reasons, told the Reuters news agency that authorities had ordered the shutdown.
On Friday, the military leader Min Aung Hlaing met ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi and Erywan Yusof, the second minister for foreign affairs for ASEAN chair Brunei, army-run Myawaddy TV reported.
The report said the meeting discussed cooperation on humanitarian issues, holding an election once the country was stable, and the alleged irregularities in last year’s election that led to the military intervention.
Country in chaos
The military, which ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011, had promised to return democracy within two years.
The visit was part of a five-point consensus reached at a meeting in Jakarta of the bloc’s leaders late in April, which was attended by Min Aung Hlaing and celebrated by ASEAN as a breakthrough.
ASEAN has yet to announce the visit and it was not immediately clear if the envoys planned to meet opponents of the military or other stakeholders.
#june5coup: Anti-Junta coalition strike in Mandalay this morning.
— Kyaw Zayar Lin (@kzy_linn) June 5, 2021
Myanmar has sunk into chaos since the coup, with countrywide strikes, boycotts and protests paralysing the economy and tens of thousands of people displaced by heavy fighting between the military and ethnic minority rebels and newly formed militias.
At least 845 people have been killed by security forces and more than 4,500 jailed, according to an activist group. The military has disputed those figures.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, is among those held, charged in two different courts with offences ranging from breaching coronavirus curbs and illegally importing walkie-talkies to a violation of the Official Secrets Act, punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
Her lawyer voiced concern on Friday that she had no legal representative in the most serious of the cases, which also includes her Australian economic adviser, Sean Turnell, but had listed all of them as representing themselves.
“We have concerns that they won’t have any legal representatives and there won’t be any transparency,” Khin Maung Zaw told Reuters.
The NUG, comprised of pro-democracy groups and supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s governing party, on Friday said it would end conflicts in Myanmar and write a new federal constitution but would first need to defeat the military coup leaders.
NUG defence minister Khin Ma Ma Myo said militias called “People’s Defence Forces” had been formed nationwide, but must work together with existing armed groups.
“The NUG government will call for a war at some point. When that time comes, we must work together to defeat the junta,” he said.
“At the moment, it is not important who the leader is, it is important to defeat the common enemy – the terrorist regime.”
Meanwhile, protests continued across the country on Saturday, including in the city of Mandalay, where hundreds of people took to the streets to denounce the military leadership and call for the restoration of democracy.
Similar protests were also reported on social media in Launglon township, Tanintharyi Division on Saturday, while residents of Hpakant’s Saitaung staged a candlelight strike on Friday evening.