Myanmar set for more protests, as Indonesia steps up diplomacy

Myanmar was set for more protests against military rule on Wednesday, as Indonesia sought to build a diplomatic coalition among other Southeast Asian countries to steer a path out of the political crisis.

This week saw huge rallies on Monday and a general strike to denounce the military’s February 1 coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite threats from authorities that confrontation could get people killed.

On Tuesday, gatherings were smaller overall but a multiethnic rally was planned on Wednesday in Mayangone in the northern part of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday denied Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had plans to visit the country this week.

“After taking into account the current development and the input of other ASEAN countries this is not the ideal time to conduct a visit to Myanmar,” Indonesian Foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told a news briefing.

Reuters news agency reported earlier that she would visit Myanmar on Thursday, citing a leaked Myanmar government document.

Retno has been trying to build support in Southeast Asia for a special meeting on Myanmar. The response to the coup by the 10 members of ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, has so far been lukewarm. The organisation has a policy of non-interference in each other’s affairs and decision by consensus.

Some pro-democracy activists are worried diplomacy with the generals could undermine demands that the results of the November polls, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide, be respected. Hundreds of people gathered outside Indonesia’s embassies in Yangon and Bangkok on Tuesday.

The generals have claimed fraud in the election, although the elections commission has found no evidence and said they will hold new polls at an unspecified date.

The Future Nation Alliance, a Myanmar-based activist group, said in a statement a visit by Retno would be “tantamount to recognising the military junta”.

The group demanded foreign officials meet Htin Lin Aung, a representative of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), established by overthrown legislators, who has been appointed the “sole responsible official for foreign relations”.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday Retno was in Thailand.