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ASEAN waters down Myanmar statement

International desk || shiningbd

Published: 18:16, 26 April 2021  
ASEAN waters down Myanmar statement

A draft statement circulating the day before a Southeast Asian leaders' summit on the Myanmar crisis included the release of political prisoners as one of its "consensus" points, said three sources familiar with the document.

But in the final statement at the end of Saturday's meeting, the language on freeing political prisoners had been unexpectedly watered down and did not contain a firm call for their release, two of the sources said.

The absence of a strong position on this issue caused dismay among human rights activists and opponents of the coup, fuelling criticism by them that the meeting had achieved little in the way of reining in the country's military leaders.

Activist monitors say 3,389 people have been detained in a crackdown on dissent by the military since the Feb 1 coup, and nearly 750 people have been killed.

The "five-point consensus" in the chairman's statement at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting did not refer to freeing political detainees.

However, the statement separately mentioned that the summit "heard calls" for their release. The summit was attended by Myanmar's junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

Among those held by the military are Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party was declared the winner of elections prior to the coup, as well as Myanmar's democratically-elected president and other lawmakers.

There was confusion after the summit as some leaders and diplomats made comments suggesting consensus had been reached on calling for release of political prisoners.

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