ASEAN leaders demand end to violence in Myanmar

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 24) — Southeast Asian leaders had a close discussion on the political crisis in Myanmar, leading to a joint call to immediately cease violence and to hold facilitated dialogues.

"[We] expressed deep concern on the situation in the country, including reports of fatalities and escalation of violence," said the Chairman's statement on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders' Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday. "We also heard calls for the release of all political prisoners including foreigners."

The statement came with a five-point consensus to address the turmoil in Myanmar, which included calling for an "immediate cessation of violence" and that "all parties shall exercise utmost restraint." Other points laid out constructive dialogue among all parties that will be facilitated by a special envoy who shall visit Myanmar. ASEAN also vowed to provide humanitarian assistance.

Myanmar's military staged a coup on February 1 and had detained state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders for supposedly failing to take action over election fraud allegations. As of April 4, at least 550 people have been reportedly killed in clashes between state forces and protesters.

The Philippines' top diplomat Teodoro Locsin Jr. was present in the meeting and described it as "the most candid exchange of views" among Southeast Asia's top officials.

"It felt like a close family meeting about a family problem," Locsin said in a tweet.

Myanmar Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the military takeover, was also in Jakarta to attend the summit.

On other matters, the ASEAN also instructed its member Foreign Ministers to conduct meetings with China and the United States as soon as possible - prior to the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting - to further strengthen "ASEAN Centrality and unity in our engagement with ASEAN's external partners."

Meanwhile, on the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN reiterated its commitment to coordinate recovery efforts, which covered the use of the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund to procure vaccines.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.