Brunei says ASEAN leaders will meet over Myanmar

Demonstrators march during an anti-military coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Monday.

Demonstrators march during an anti-military coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Monday. Photo: EPA

Brunei, the chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, has thrown its support behind a regional leaders’ meeting to discuss developments in Myanmar and says it has asked officials to prepare for a meeting in Jakarta.

Myanmar has been in crisis since a February 1 military coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Activists say at least 557 people have since been killed in a crackdown by security forces on protests and strikes across the country, where the junta has restricted internet access.

Indonesia has led efforts by members of ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, to encourage a negotiated solution, despite a long-standing policy of not commenting on each other’s domestic problems.

In a joint statement with Malaysia, Brunei said both countries had asked their ministers and senior officials to undertake “necessary preparations for the meeting that will be held at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia.”

The statement followed a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah on Monday.

“Both leaders agreed for ASEAN leaders to meet to discuss the ongoing developments in Myanmar,” they said.

They did not say when the meeting would be held.

Both leaders expressed concern about the rising number of fatalities in Myanmar.

“They urged all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to immediately exercise utmost restraint and flexibility,” according to the statement.

ASEAN operates by consensus but the divergent views of its 10 members on how to respond to the Myanmar army’s use of lethal force against civilians and the group’s policy of non-interference has limited its ability to act.

Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore have all expressed alarm at the killings of demonstrators and support an urgent high-level meeting on Myanmar.

Their foreign ministers each separately held talks last week with their counterpart in China, Myanmar’s influential northern neighbour.

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