Indonesia presses regional effort to resolve Myanmar crisis

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An anti-coup protester shouts slowgans after riot policemen blocked their march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Protesters against the military's seizure of power in Myanmar were back on the streets of cities and towns on Wednesday, days after a general strike shuttered shops and brought huge numbers out to demonstrate. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK – Regional diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar's political crisis intensified Wednesday, while protests continued in Yangon and other cities calling for the country's coup makers to step down and return Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government to power.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited the Thai capital, Bangkok, and held three-way talks with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and Myanmar’s new foreign minister, retired army colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, who also traveled to Thailand. The meeting was part of her efforts to coordinate a regional response to the crisis triggered by Myanmar's Feb. 1 military coup.

In a virtual news conference after her return to Indonesia, Marsudi said she expressed her country’s concern about the situation in Myanmar.

“We asked all parties to exercise restraint and not use violence ... to avoid casualties and bloodshed,” she said, emphasizing the need for dialogue, reconciliation and trust-building.

Marudi said she had conveyed the same principles to a group of elected members of Myanmar's Parliament who were barred by the military coup from taking their seats. The lawmakers are from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, which won a landslide victory in elections last November that would have given it a second five-year term in office.

After the coup, the group, called the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the name of the combined houses of Parliament, announced it was convening the body in an online session and appealed to the U.N. and foreign countries to treat it as Myanmar's legitimate government. It has received increasing support from Myanmar's protest movement, but little if any foreign endorsement. Indonesia's acknowledgement that the group has a role to play could open an avenue for negotiations between Myanmar's ruling junta and its opponents.

Marsudi described her communications with the committee as “intensive.”

Indonesia and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are seeking to promote some concessions by Myanmar's military that could ease tensions before there is more violence. The regional grouping, to which Thailand and Myanmar also belong, believes dialogue with the generals is a more effective method of achieving concessions than more confrontational methods, such as sanctions, often advocated by Western nations.