Myanmar coup: top general 'agrees that violence must stop'

Min Aung Hlaing accepts five-point plan put forward at Asean meeting of regional leaders

This handout photograph taken on April 24, 2021 and released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) delivering his speech at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myannmar crisis talks in Jakarta. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/Indonesian Presidential Palace" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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South-East Asian leaders said on Saturday they had agreed on a plan with Myanmar's junta chief to end the crisis in the violence-hit nation, but he did not explicitly respond to demands to halt the killing of civilian protesters.

"It's beyond our expectation," Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters after the meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) in Jakarta that was attended by Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

"We tried not to accuse his side too much because we don’t care who’s causing it," Mr Muhyiddin said. "We just stressed that the violence must stop. For him, it’s the other side that’s causing the problems. But he agreed that violence must stop."

Asean leaders wanted a commitment from the general to restrain his security forces, who monitors say have killed nearly 750 people since a mass civil disobedience movement emerged to challenge his February 1 coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. They had also wanted the release of political prisoners.

According to a statement from Brunei, the current chair of the group, a consensus was reached on five points – ending violence, a constructive dialogue among all parties, a special Asean envoy to facilitate the dialogue, acceptance of aid and a visit by the envoy to Myanmar.

"He said he heard us, he would take the points in, which he considered helpful," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the junta chief, according to Channel NewsAsia television. "He was not opposed to Asean playing a constructive role, or an Asean delegation visit, or humanitarian assistance."

There was no immediate comment from Min Aung Hlaing.

Myanmar's newly formed parallel National Unity Government (NUG) welcomed the "encouraging" news of a consensus on dealing with the crisis in the country.

The NUG "looked forward to firm action by Asean to follow up on its decisions and to restore our democracy and freedom for our people," Dr Sasa, its spokesman and minister of international co-operation, said in a statement.

The NUG, which is comprised of pro-democracy figures, remnants Ms Suu Kyi's ousted administration and representatives of armed ethnic groups, says it is the legitimate authority in Myanmar but was not invited to the Asean meeting.

Another civilian was killed in Myanmar as protests continued on Saturday. A demonstration on motorbikes where protesters flashed the three-finger salute of resistance as they drove outside capital Naypyidaw turned violent by afternoon when police and soldiers opened fire.

A 50-year-old protester was detained and killed, a witness told AFP.

"Police held him on each side, then a soldier shot him in the back," the protester said, adding that security forces took the man's body.

"We only had the three-finger salute, but they had weapons to take our lives," he said.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo said the situation in Myanmar was "unacceptable".

"Violence must be stopped, democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be returned immediately,” Mr Widodo said during the meeting. “The interests of the people of Myanmar must always be the priority.”

The Asean gathering was the first co-ordinated international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, one of the group's 10 members.

The bloc has a policy of consensus decision-making and non-interference in the affairs of its members, makes it difficult to tackle contentious issues. However, it is seen by the United Nations, China and the United States as best placed to deal with the junta directly.

It was unusual for the leader of a military government in Myanmar to attend an Asean summit – usually the country has been represented by a lower-ranked officer or a civilian.

The leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei were at the meeting, along with the foreign ministers of Laos, Thailand and the Philippines.