PH calls to free Suu Kyi, wants ASEAN to help end Myanmar crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — The Philippines called for the immediate release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a complete return to the previous state of affairs in Myanmar, a month after the military in the troubled nation seized power in a coup.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a statement at Tuesday's informal virtual meeting among foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also recognized the role of the army in preserving Myanmar’s territorial integrity and national security.

"As part of ASEAN, indeed as part of the civilized community of nations, we are deeply concerned about the recent developments in Myanmar," Locsin added, alluding to the military's ouster of civilian leaders and violent crackdown on protesters.

He stressed that the Philippines recognizes Suu Kyi's "unifying role in her country's history and in its destiny" and has always stood by Myanmar's side while it faced "ethnic challenges."

"Our call is for the complete return to the previously existing state of affairs: with respect to the preeminent role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; alongside the Army her father created for the protection of the people he led to freedom and the country he gave them at the cost of his life," he said.

The first step, he noted, should be the immediate release of Suu Kyi and subsequent dialogue among the parties involved in Myanmar's destiny..

"In the Philippines, we have a saying: the hurt of the small finger is felt by the whole body. Myanmar is not a small finger but a big part of the two hands that together make up the family of ASEAN 10," Locsin added.

He called on the rest of the ASEAN community to stand by Myanmar and be ready to extend whatever help is asked by its people and government.

Suu Kyi is currently facing charges after her National League for Democracy Party won by a landslide in the November 2020 election. The army alleged the polls were marred by fraud and seized power.

Mass protests in various areas of Myanmar were held over the past weeks in defiance of the coup. At least 18 people were reported killed and 30 were injured after an encounter with the police and military during the demonstrations.

The military has been in power in Myanmar from 1962 until 2011, when the new government started ushering a return to civilian rule. Despite the transition and the power-sharing arrangement with civilian officials, the army has retained significant power in Myanmar.

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