Myanmar Cardinal Calls for Release of Detained Leaders, Urges Calm After Coup

By The Irrawaddy 4 February 2021

YANGON—The Archbishop of Yangon has urged the Myanmar military to release State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other detainees “at the earliest” while appealing to the public not to resort to violence and to “stay calm” even as they voice their opposition to the recent military takeover.

In his message to “the People of Myanmar And Our International Communities” released late Wednesday night, Cardinal Charles Bo also urged those countries gearing up to impose economic sanctions against the country following the military coup to consider the reality of the situation in Myanmar, taking into account the country’s history and its economic and political conditions, as “sanctions risk collapsing the economy, throwing millions into poverty.”

Prior to the release of the statement, the Yangon Region military commander met with the cardinal at the archbishop’s residence in downtown Yangon on Wednesday. Details of the nearly 15-minute-long meeting were unknown.

In his letter, the Archbishop of Yangon told the people of Myanmar that he shared “deep fellowship” with all of them as they grapple with the “unexpected, shocking events that are unfolding in the country”.

“I appeal to each one of you, stay calm, never fall victim to violence. Even at this most challenging moment, I believe that peace is the only way. There are always nonviolent ways for expressing our protests,” he said.

Following the coup, the military regime promised to hold a new election as soon as it completes implementing emergency measures.

In his message, the cardinal told the military regime leaders that Myanmar people are tired of empty promises and will never accept “fake protestation”.

“How will you gain the trust of our people? They will trust only when words are matched by sincere actions,” he warned.

He stressed that the military leaders must understand the people’s anguish and disappointment and urged the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, not to commit any violence against the people. “Once again I plead with you, treat them with great dignity and peace,” he said.

Referring to President U Win Myint, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others in detention, the cardinal urged the regime to “respect their rights and release them at the earliest.”

“You promise democracy; start with releasing them. [The] World will understand you,” he said.

Addressing the President and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Cardinal Bo said that “truth will prevail; God is the ultimate arbiter of truth. But God waits.”

“At this moment I offer my personal sympathies with your plight and pray that you may once again walk amidst your people, raising their spirits,” he said.

At the same time, the cardinal said he wished to confirm that the coup took place due to a lack of dialogue and communication between the two sides and their lack of acceptance of one another, referring to the military’s complaints of alleged electoral fraud during the November election and the government’s silence over the issue.

“Please listen to others,” he suggested.

The pre-dawn coup in Myanmar on Monday has drawn international condemnation. The US State Department said “a very small circle of Burma’s military leaders have chosen their own interests over the will and well-being of the people.” On Wednesday, the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, and representatives of the European Union, also condemned the coup.

Following the coup, a number of countries appear to be preparing to slap sanctions on Myanmar. The US said the takeover would trigger restrictions in American assistance to the country.

On that issue, Cardinal Bo reminded the international community that, while he is grateful for their concerns, history has painfully shown that “abrupt conclusions and judgements ultimately do not benefit Myanmar people as sanctions and condemnations brought few results, rather they closed doors and shut out dialogue.”

“These hard measures have proved a great blessing to those super powers that eye our resources,” he warned, referring to what happened in Myanmar in the late 1990s, when international isolation forced the then military regime to become dependent on China. A series of international restrictions were imposed on Myanmar at the time, but the then military government rarely suffered the impact, and the public simply grew poorer.

The cardinal urged the international community to deal with the reality, understanding well Myanmar’s history and the risk of collapsing the economy, throwing millions into poverty.

“Engaging the actors in reconciliation is the only path,” he reminded the international community.

The cardinal said the latest coup and the consequences that have unfolded since early this week were “painful” and had “shattered our people.”

“Let us solve all disputes through dialogue,” he said.

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