SINGAPORE, March 2 (CNA) - Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries prepared for a special meeting with Myanmar's ruling military on Tuesday (Mar 2) in an effort to quell deadly violence and open a channel to tackle its escalating political crisis.
The talks will come two days after the bloodiest day of unrest since the military removed Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government a month ago, unleashing anger and mass street protests across Myanmar.
The streets were largely quiet in the biggest city Yangon early on Tuesday ahead of what protesters said would be another big demonstration. Several shopping malls announced closures due to the unrest, some in places where protests have taken place.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters in Yangon on Monday and later combed side streets, firing rubber bullets, witnesses said.
In remarks read on state television by a newscaster, junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said protest leaders and "instigators" would be punished and threatened action against civil servants who were refusing to work.
Min Aung Hlaing has pledged to hold new elections and hand power to the winner, but has given no clear time frame.
His coup on Feb 1 halted Myanmar's tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, and has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, and growing concern among its neighbours.
Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be frank when they meet by video call on Tuesday and will tell a representative of Myanmar's military they are appalled by the violence.
In a television interview late on Monday, he said ASEAN would encourage dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.
"There is the political leadership ... and there is the military leadership, on the other hand. They need to talk, and we need to help bring them together," he said.
ASEAN groups Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
But ASEAN's effort to engage with Myanmar's military were met with a fierce rebuke from groups in the anti-coup movement, including a committee of ousted lawmakers that has declared the junta a "terrorist" group.