Myanmar junta-aligned party calls for dialogue with coup dissidents

Yangon (AFP) – Myanmar's military-aligned party urged Friday for the junta to open dialogue with coup opponents, as the generals face increasing pressure to end nearly nine months of bloody turmoil.

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The Southeast Asian nation has been in chaos since the February coup, with more than 1,100 killed in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

"We must talk for the interest of all our people in the country... It will be difficult to find a solution if we continue like this," Nandar Hla Myint, spokesman for the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party, told AFP.

"Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing took responsibility for the country... His caretaker government is the most responsible for making the dialogue happen," he said.

While Nandar Hla Myint did not say whether discussions should include ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, he pointed out that the Nobel laureate has not encouraged violence from the junta's opponents.

Her National League for Democracy party trounced the USDP in elections last year, which the military has alleged was due to fraud.

The junta, which has since dubbed itself the State Administration Council, has said it will hold fresh elections in 2023 -- but Nandar Hla Myint said the poll could see more bloodshed if the crisis is unresolved.

"More people will be killed if there are no guarantees for lives... of candidates who will compete in the (next) election," he said.

Nine months after seizing power, and unable to stamp out opposition to their regime, the generals are under increasing international pressure to engage with their opponents.

Last week, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) decided to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit of the 10-country bloc over doubts about his commitment to defuse the bloody crisis.

The United States welcomed the rare move by the ASEAN -- long criticised as toothless -- Derek Chollet, counselor of the State Department, told reporters Thursday.

Chollet was speaking during a tour to the region to consult with US allies on ways to press the junta.

Earlier this week, Britain said it would not be inviting Myanmar's junta to a G7-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting.

The coup snuffed out the country's short-lived experiment with democracy, with Suu Kyi now facing a raft of charges in a junta court that could see her jailed for decades.