International call for Myanmar to let envoy meet Suu Kyi

Sydney (AFP) –


Eight countries and the EU diplomatic chief on Friday urged the Myanmar junta to let a regional special envoy meet ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The call comes as concerns grow over the military government's commitment to a "five-point consensus" agreed with regional bloc ASEAN to defuse the bloody crisis that erupted after Myanmar's February 1 coup.

ASEAN foreign ministers met virtually on Friday evening to debate whether to exclude Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit over his government's intransigence.

Brunei, which currently holds ASEAN's rotating chair, will issue a statement Saturday on the meeting's outcome, diplomatic sources said.

The military authorities have said they will not allow ASEAN special envoy Erywan Yusof to meet anyone currently on trial, which includes Suu Kyi.

In a joint statement, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway and East Timor say they are "deeply concerned about the dire situation in Myanmar" and urged Naypyidaw to "engage constructively" with the special envoy.

"We further call on the military to facilitate regular visits to Myanmar by the ASEAN Special Envoy, and for him to be able to engage freely with all stakeholders," said the statement, also endorsed by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

This last phrase is an apparent reference to the junta refusing Yusof, who is also Brunei's second foreign minister, access to Suu Kyi.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated that Yusof should be allowed "a meaningful visit where he would be able to meet with all parties".

"We urge the regime to facilitate a visit by the special envoy," Price told reporters.

The State Department also announced that senior official Derek Chollet will head from Sunday to Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, in part to address the crisis in Myanmar.

Rebuffing pressure, the Myanmar foreign ministry on Thursday insisted Yusof could not "go beyond the permission of existing laws" and urged him to focus on meeting government officials instead.

International pressure has so far had little impact on the junta, which launched a brutal crackdown on protests against its power grab that has so far killed nearly 1,200 civilians.

February's coup ended the country's brief dalliance with democracy after decades of army rule, though the army has pledged to hold elections by August 2023.

The military government, which calls itself the State Administration Council, has defended its actions pointing to alleged vote rigging in last year's election, won easily by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.