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Iran Press TV

Myanmar's shadow government says no talks with junta until all prisoners freed

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 10:21 AM

Myanmar's newly-formed shadow government says it will not enter into talks with the military junta, which seized power in a February coup, until it releases all political prisoners.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, the prime minister of the National Unity Government (NUG), announced the stance on Wednesday, after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for talks between all sides in an attempt to end the post-coup turmoil in Myanmar.

The NUG, which was formed in mid-April by ousted lawmakers mostly from the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had earlier called on Southeast Asian leaders not to recognize the military regime.

"Before any constructive dialog can take place… there must be an unconditional release of political prisoners, including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," Mahn Win Khaing Than said in a statement.

The NUG further called on the regional bloc to engage with it as the legitimate representative of the Myanmarese people.

The leaders of ASEAN member states have already met with Myanmar's military chief Min Aung Hlaing. The meeting, which took place at a summit in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, on Saturday, was deemed to have legitimized the Myanmarese coup leader.

Brunei, the current chair of ASEAN, said in a statement that a consensus had been reached with the military leader on ending the violence in Myanmar.

Myanmar's pro-democracy activists have rejected the agreement, saying it did not reflect the will of the people and the realities on the ground. Many took to social media to criticize the deal.

Protest organizers also vowed to keep up rallies against the junta.

ASEAN did not invite a representative of Suu Kyi's ousted government.

The summit was the first coordinated international effort to ease tensions in Myanmar since the junta deposed Suu Kyi and imprisoned her along with other political leaders on February 1.

The junta has since been engaged in a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters that has led to the killing of nearly 750 people, according to a local monitoring group.

The military government has so far detained more than 3,300 people in connection with the coup, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Meanwhile, the Myanmar Now news outlet reported that protesters marched in support of the NUG in the country's second-largest city, Mandalay, on Wednesday.

Separately, fighting has escalated between armed groups and regime forces in border areas, particularly in the east near Thailand. Forces of the Karen National Union (KNU) — one of the largest armed groups in Myanmar — reportedly seized an army base in Karen State near the Salween River early on Tuesday morning.

The armed groups have pledged to fight in support of the protesters.

The military launched airstrikes in the area on Wednesday, villagers on the Thai side of the border said, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

Early this month, the United Nations (UN) special envoy for Myanmar warned of the risk of civil war in the ethnically diverse nation.

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