Monday, February 1st, 2021

US, Australia say Myanmar army must release elected leaders ‘immediately’

Published 11:41 pm | February 01, 2021

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Online desk ; The United States and Australia have called on Myanmar military leaders to release civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained in overnight raids in the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday (Jan 31) said the United States expressed “grave concern and alarm” over reports of the detention of government officials and civil society leaders.

“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8,” Mr Blinken said, reports The Straits Times.

“The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately.”

Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained early Monday as part of an apparent coup, after their National League for Democracy won an election landslide.

Myanmar’s polls in November were only the second democratic elections the country has seen since it emerged from the 49-year grip of military rule in 2011.

The White House warned of a response from Washington.

“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, adding that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.

The US “urge the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today,” she added.

In Australia, foreign minister Marise Payne warned that the Myanmar military was “once again seeking to seize control” of the country.

“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” Ms Payne said in a statement.

“We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election,” she added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the military’s move.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the detention of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders on the eve of the opening session of Myanmar’s new Parliament,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in

India’s Ministry of External Affairs called for upholding rule of law and democratic process.

“We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely,” it said.

Meanwhile, Japan said it currently has no plans to repatriate Japanese nationals from Myanmar, but it is watching the situation, a foreign ministry official said.

There are an estimated 3,500 Japanese in the country, but because of the coronavirus pandemic the government had been advising citizens to put off travel there, said the official, who asked to remain unidentified, adding that there are no plans at this point to change that advisory.

The Japanese embassy in Myanmar, in a message posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website, said while the situation in the country at this point did not appear to be one that would involve ordinary people, people should exercise caution.

“We encourage people to stay inside and refrain from going out unless absolutely essential,” it added.

Malaysia’s former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong called for the US and China to intervene to prevent a “major democratic regression.”

“A civilian government elected through elections should be defended. Military coups of any kind must be condemned as this is against the wishes of the people of Myanmar,” Mr Liew told news portal Malaysiakini.

“In particular, we must urge the two major powers, United States and China, to do all they can to prevent Myanmar going into another major democratic regression.”

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