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Myanmar Seeks Murder, Treason Charges Against Protest Leader; Air Strikes In East

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Myanmar authorities are seeking to file charges of murder and treason against one of the main leaders of the protest campaign against military rule, the state broadcaster said on Wednesday.

Wai Moe Naing was arrested on April 15 when security men rammed him with a car as he led a motorbike protest rally in the central town of Monywa.

Myanmar Television, in its main evening news bulletin, broadcast a list of charges being sought against him, including murder and treason, that it said had been filed with police.

Wai Moe Naing, a 25-year-old Muslim, has emerged as one of the most high-profile leaders of opposition to the Feb. 1 coup that overhrew an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

It is not clear if he has a lawyer.

Pro-democracy protests have taken place in cities and towns across the country since the coup, with Monywa one of the main centres of opposition.

The military has cracked down with lethal force on the protesters, killing more than 750 people, an activist group says. Reuters is unable to confirm the casualty toll.

Fighting has also intensified between the military and ethnic minority Karen insurgents in the east with more air strikes sending villagers fleeing into neighbouring Thailand, Thai officials said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Myanmar’s pro-democracy unity government, formed to oppose the junta, ruled out talks on the crisis until all political prisoners are released.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), alarmed by the turmoil in one of its members, has been trying to find a path for Myanmar out of the crisis and held a meeting on Saturday in the Indonesian capital with the leader of the junta, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

The pro-democracy National Unity Government (NUG), which includes members of parliament ousted by the coup, was not invited to the talks. It said ASEAN should be engaging with it as the legitimate representative of the people.

“Before any constructive dialogue can take place, however, there must be an unconditional release of political prisoners including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” the NUG prime minister, Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Thann, said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from any senior ASEAN official, and a spokesman for the Myanmar military did not answer calls seeking comment.

Win Myint, Suu Kyi and others have been detained since the coup, which the military launched as her government was preparing for a second term after sweeping a November election.

The military said it had to seize power because its complaints of election fraud were not addressed by an election commission that deemed the vote fair.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group says more than 3,400 people have been detained for opposing the coup.

ASEAN leaders said after the weekend meeting that they had had reached a “five-point consensus” on steps to end violence and promote dialogue between the Myanmar rivals.

But the junta declined to accept the ASEAN proposals, saying it would consider them “when the situation returns to stability” and provided the recommendations facilitated the military’s own roadmap.

Protesters marched in support of the NUG in the second city of Mandalay, the Myanmar Now media outlet reported.

There was no report of violence at the protest but two small bombs – one in Mandalay and one in the main city of Yangon – later wounded several people, media reported.

There was no claim of responsibility.

Karen insurgents captured Myanmar army posts near the Thai border on Tuesday in some of the most intense clashes since the coup which included air strikes by the military.

More air strikes on Wednesday, with warplanes and helicopters, forced about 100 villagers to the Thai side of the border, Thai authorities said.

The Karen and other ethnic minority forces based in frontier regions have supported the largely urban-based pro-democracy opponents of the junta.

Clashes have also broken out in Chin State, which is on the border with India, between anti-coup activists and security forces. Myanmar Now reported 30 government soldiers were killed in four days of clashes there.

Reuters

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