SINGAPORE: Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday (Mar 1) called on Myanmar's military to stop the use of lethal force on civilians and the immediate release of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.
At least 18 people died on Sunday, said the United Nations human rights office, as Myanmar authorities cracked down on protests against the military coup.
Speaking during the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MFA) Committee of Supply debate, Dr Balakrishnan said the recent developments in Myanmar are of "grave concern" to Singapore and the larger Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) family.
"The immediate priority is to halt all acts of violence and the use of lethal force, and to step back from a rapidly deteriorating situation," said Dr Balakrishnan.
He highlighted a "significant escalation in violence" on Sunday 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," said the Foreign Minister.
"We are appalled by the use of lethal force against civilians," said Dr Balakrishnan, adding his condolences to the families of those who died.
Singapore "strongly reiterates" that the use of lethal weapons against unarmed civilians is "inexcusable in all circumstances", said Dr Balakrishnan.
"We call on the Myanmar military authorities to exercise utmost restraint, to desist from the use of lethal force, and to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation in order to prevent further bloodshed, violence and death," he added.
Prolonged instability in Myanmar would have "serious consequences" for the country, ASEAN, and across the region, he said.
He called on all parties in Myanmar to engage in discussions and to negotiate "in good faith", and to pursue long-term peaceful political solutions for them to "achieve national reconciliation, including ... to find a way to get back to the path of democratic transition".
"We believe this can only begin if President Win Myint, and State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, and the other political detainees are immediately released," said Dr Balakrishnan.
Despite ASEAN’s core principles of consensus and non-interference, it can still play a constructive role in facilitating a return to normalcy and stability in Myanmar, said Dr Balakrishnan.
"This was why Singapore strongly supported ASEAN’s efforts from the start, including the ASEAN Chair’s Statement," he said.
"We believe in engagement and dialogue in good faith with all relevant stakeholders."
A special ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting will be convened via video conference on Tuesday to listen to a representative of the Myanmar military authorities.
"We are appalled by the violence and we will say that tomorrow," said Dr Balakrishnan in an interview on Mediacorp Channel 5's News Tonight.
ASEAN's foreign ministers are "gravely concerned" over the situation in Myanmar, he said, adding that the bloc will be "frank" on its position during Tuesday's teleconference.
Dr Balakrishnan said ASEAN foreign ministers will remind the military that ultimately, the coup will cause "grievous damage" to Myanmar's society and economy.
"Instability in any corner of Southeast Asia threatens and affects the rest of us. It's such a pity because, in fact, the prospects on Myanmar were bright, the prospects for Southeast Asia are robust in the next 20, 30 years," he said during the interview.
"We need to seize this opportunity and not let this political strife in Myanmar, with all its attendant violence and negative consequences for its people, distract and disrupt us from the future that's awaiting all of us in Southeast Asia."
In Parliament earlier, Dr Balakrishnan said ASEAN will work closely with its external partners to foster an inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders.
"We must ensure that the mutually beneficial relations that ASEAN and our partners have built up do not become paralysed by this issue," he said.