Singapore, Indonesia express ‘grave concern’ over Myanmar

The foreign ministers of Singapore and Indonesia expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Myanmar and support a proposal to hold an informal Asean ministerial meeting on Myanmar, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday (Feb 18).

The statement was issued after Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, in Singapore on Thursday to exchange views on the ongoing developments in Myanmar.

“They expressed grave concern over the situation and also expressed hope that all parties involved will maintain dialogue and work towards a peaceful resolution and national reconciliation in Myanmar, including a return to its path of democratic transition,” the MFA statement said.

Dr Balakrishnan urged all parties involved to exercise utmost restraint and take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation.

“He stressed that there should be no violence against unarmed civilians. In particular, live rounds should not be fired on unarmed civilians under any circumstances,” the statement said.

Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup on Feb 1, ousting the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leaders.

There have been mass protests against the coup since then, with reports of police opening fire to disperse protesters in at least one incident, although it was unclear if they used rubber bullets or live rounds.

Ms Retno thanked Dr Balakrishnan for receiving her and added in a tweet: “FM Vivian and I spoke among others on preparation of Leaders Meeting and on a number of Asean issues, including Myanmar”.

MFA said the two ministers possible next steps for Asean to address the situation in Myanmar, “including how it could foster inclusive dialogue with all key stakeholders, including its external partners”.

“They also expressed strong support for a proposed Informal Asean Ministerial Meeting on Myanmar to be convened as soon as possible, to facilitate a constructive exchange of views and identify a possible way forward. ”

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament on Tuesday that he did not support widespread sanctions on Myanmar in response to a coup as these could hurt ordinary citizens.

He hoped detainees, including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, could be released so they can negotiate with the ruling military council.

In their Thursday meeting, both Dr Balakrisnan and Ms Retno reaffirmed “the excellent state of bilateral relations” and that both countries will continue exploring areas of further collaboration amid challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the statement said.

Ms Retno arrived in Singapore on Wednesday and left on Thursday.

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