Since the coup, Myanmar’s security forces have arrested more than 9,000 people, of whom an estimated 7,355 are still in custody, according to the non-profit group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
In a statement, the current ASEAN president, Brunei, said there had been “insufficient progress” on a roadmap to restore peace in Myanmar, adding that the grouping would “give place for Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy”. “
In response, Min Aung Huling blamed Myanmar’s opposition National Unity government and various ethnic armed groups for the ongoing violence, and said ASEAN should have targeted them rather than the junta.
“Provocations by terrorist groups led to more violence,” Min Aung Huling said in a speech on Monday. “No one cares about their violence and is only demanding that we resolve the issue. ASEAN should work on that.”
The comments on state television are Min Aung Huling’s first remarks since the ASEAN announcement.
“The junta will continue to refuse to be transparent about individuals released and those in custody,” AAPP said in a statement. “The ‘protesters’ issued were exercising the fundamental right of free assembly against an illegitimate coup attempt.”
Captain Nye Thuta, a former military officer now fighting the regime, also claimed that the junta only released prisoners because Min Aung Huling had been “kicked out of the ASEAN summit.”
“Releasing the prisoners is just to reduce international pressure and not with good intentions for the people or the nation,” he said, urging “immediate handing over of power to the people”.
UN Special Envoy Tom Andrews welcomed the release of some prisoners, but said it was “outrageous” that they were detained in the first place.
“The public is releasing political prisoners in Myanmar not because of change of heart, but because of pressure,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Min Aung Huling declared himself prime minister of a newly formed caretaker government in August, promising to hold new elections within two years and work with a special envoy nominated by ASEAN.
Wayne Chang, Cape Diamond and Hannah Ritchie contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Reuters.
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