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'Not the right time' for foreign minister to visit Myanmar, says Indonesia

'Not the right time' for foreign minister to visit Myanmar, says Indonesia

A slogan is written on a street as a protest after the coup in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb 21, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

JAKARTA: While Indonesia's foreign minister remains "open to the option" of visiting Myanmar, it is currently "not the right time", said the Indonesian foreign ministry on Wednesday (Feb 24).

A leaked Myanmar government document earlier cited by Reuters said that Retno Marsudi had planned to fly to Myanmar on Thursday in what would have been the first known visit by a foreign envoy since the Feb 1 coup.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that Retno "is open to the option of visiting Naypyidaw to work on a solution at the regional level, in this case ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)". 

"(But) now is not the right time to conduct a visit to Myanmar," the spokesman said. 

"Indonesia is committed to make its contribution. Indonesia is also committed to communicate with all parties in Myanmar," he added.

On Tuesday, Indonesia dismissed a report by Reuters suggesting that an action plan was being prepared to help the Myanmar military uphold its promise of holding a new election.

The Reuters report, published on Monday, quoted officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The report also said the Indonesian plan called for ASEAN to facilitate dialogue between the junta and protesters.

READ: Indonesia dismisses report on action plan to help Myanmar military uphold promise of fresh polls

READ: Myanmar people's wishes must be respected: Indonesian foreign minister

The Future Nation Alliance, a Myanmar-based activist group, said in a statement, a visit by Retno would be "tantamount to recognising the military junta".

Hundreds gathered outside Indonesia's embassy in Yangon on Tuesday to voice their opposition to the election proposal reported by Reuters, while members of Myanmar's Muslim community and other demonstrators were due to hold another protest on Wednesday.

This week saw huge rallies on Monday and a general strike to denounce the military's coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite a warning from authorities that confrontation could get people killed.

On Tuesday, gatherings were smaller overall, but a multi-ethnic rally was planned on Wednesday in Mayangone in the northern part of the commercial hub of Yangon.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator takes part in a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 22, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

G7 CONDEMN "INTIMIDATION"

The Group of Seven (G7) rich nations on Tuesday condemned intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup. "Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account," group foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

The army seized power after alleging fraud in Nov 8 elections, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and much of the party leadership. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud complaints.

READ: Myanmar junta chief urges economic action as Western pressure grows

READ: UN Security Council calls for release of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi

The crisis raises the prospect of isolation and investor jitters just as the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined consumption and choked off tourism.

Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing, in a meeting with his ruling council on Monday, called for state spending and imports to be cut and exports increased.

"The council needs to put its energy into reviving the country's ailing economy. Economic remedy measures must be taken," state media quoted him as saying.

Min Aung Hlaing did not link the protests directly to economic problems but said the authorities were following a democratic path in dealing with them and police were using minimal force, such as rubber bullets, state media reported.

READ: Protests swell after Myanmar junta raises spectre of force

Security forces have shown more restraint compared with earlier crackdowns against people who had pushed for democracy during almost half a century of direct military rule.

Even so, three protesters have been shot and killed. The army has said one policeman died of injuries sustained during the protests.

The military has accused protesters of provoking violence but UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said the millions who marched on Monday in a "breathtaking" turnout showed they were prepared to face up to military threats.

Western nations sought to increase pressure on the junta this week with the European Union warning it was considering sanctions that would target businesses owned by the army.

The United States imposed sanctions on two more members of the junta and warned it could take more action.

Myanmar's giant neighbour China, which has traditionally taken a softer line, said any international action should contribute to stability, promote reconciliation and avoid complicating the situation, media reported.

Source: Reuters/cna/ga/zl

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