ASEAN changed Myanmar’s statement on the release of political detainees

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© Reuters. ASEAN Leaders Summit in Jakarta

By Tom Allard JAKARTA (Reuters) – A draft statement circulated the day before the summit of Southeast Asian leaders on the Myanmar crisis included the release of political prisoners as one of its “consensus” points, three familiar sources said. with the document. But in the final statement at the end of Saturday’s meeting, the language on the release of political prisoners was unexpectedly softened and did not contain a strong call for their release, two of the sources said. The absence of a firm position on this issue caused consternation among human rights activists and opponents of the coup, fueling their criticism that the meeting had accomplished little to stop the country’s military leaders. Activist observers say 3,389 people have been detained in a crackdown on dissent by the army since the February 1 coup, and nearly 750 people have died. The “five-point consensus” in the president’s statement at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting did not refer to the release of political detainees. However, the statement separately mentioned that the summit “heard calls” for his release. The summit was attended by the leader of the Myanmar junta, Min Aung Hlaing. Among those detained by the military are Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party was declared the winner of the elections before the coup, as well as the democratically elected president of Myanmar and other lawmakers. There was confusion after the summit, as some leaders and diplomats made comments suggesting that a consensus had been reached to call for the release of political prisoners. “Malaysia lobbied for an end to the violence in Myanmar, the release of political detainees and for an ASEAN envoy to meet with all parties involved,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Sunday. , on social media. “The leaders reached a consensus on these.” Hishammuddin’s spokeswoman referred Reuters to the line of the president’s statement calling for the release of the detainees. Two sources who saw the draft consensus points and requested anonymity told Reuters they were surprised the language had been changed, but did not say how or when it was changed. Reuters has not seen the draft. There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Brunei Foreign Ministry, which chaired the ASEAN summit. Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, said political prisoners should be “involved in any negotiated solution to the crisis.” However, the five points of consensus include a commitment that “all parties” of Myanmar participate in the dialogue. The other points of consensus were an end to the violence, a special envoy from ASEAN, humanitarian assistance and a visit by a delegation to Myanmar to “meet with all stakeholders.” At the summit, leaders and their representatives made speeches on the situation in Myanmar, and coup leader Ming Aung Hlaing was the last to present his views, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsieh Loong said. “He said that he listened to us, that he would take the points where he considered useful,” Lee said.