Myanmar faces more protests
Indonesian diplomatic efforts falter as visit scrapped
Published: Feb 24, 2021 04:48 PM

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military upheaval in Mandalay, Myanmar on Monday. Photo: AFP

Myanmar was set for more street protests on Wednesday against military rule while Indonesia's efforts steer a path out of the crisis with the help of other Southeast Asian countries appeared to falter with a proposed diplomatic visit scrapped.

This week saw huge rallies and a general strike on Monday to denounce the military's February 1 upheaval and demand the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite a warning from authorities that confrontation could get people killed.

On Tuesday, gatherings were smaller overall but a rally by members of different ethnic minorities was taking place in the commercial hub of Yangon, with civil servants from the energy ministry joining in.

"We ethnic minority people haven't had the chance to demand our rights but now we do," said San Aung Li, 26, a member of the Kachin minority.

"So I'm supporting the protest as all ethnic people are, with one voice."

With the protest and a civil disobedience movement paralyzing life in Myanmar, Indonesia has been trying to find a way out.

Sources said it proposed a plan centered on members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) sending monitors to ensure the generals stick to their promise to hold fair elections.

The military has not given a time frame for a new election but it imposed a one-year state of emergency when it seized power so it would likely be after that.

But Suu Kyi's party, which swept a November 8 election that the military says was marred by fraud, and its supporters want its victory recognized.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was in Thailand and had been expected to fly to Myanmar but that trip was off, her ministry said.

"After taking into account current developments and the input of other ASEAN countries, this is not the ideal time to conduct a visit to Myanmar," Indonesian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah, told a briefing in Jakarta.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Indonesia's embassy in Yangon to voice opposition to a new election, demanding that the votes they cast in November be recognized.

The army seized power after alleging fraud in the November elections, detaining Suu Kyi and much of the party leadership. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud complaints.

The Future Nation Alliance, a Myanmar-based activist group, said earlier in a statement a visit by Retno would be "tantamount to recognizing the military junta."

The group demanded foreign officials meet Htin Lin Aung, a member of a committee representing ousted lawmakers, who has been appointed the "sole responsible official for foreign relations."