• Tuesday, May 11, 2021
  • Last Update : 04:07 pm

UK, US sanction Myanmar junta entities as 5 killed by security forces

  • Published at 05:00 pm March 25th, 2021
Myanmar Security Force Myanmar Coup
File Photo: Security forces holding weapons on a street in Taunggyi in Myanmar's Shan state, during a crackdown on protests against the military coup on March 25, 2021 AFP

At least 286 people have been killed since the February 1 coup in the crackdown on protests

The United States and Britain imposed sanctions on military-controlled conglomerates in Myanmar on Thursday as security forces were reported to have killed five more pro-democracy protesters in an unrelenting crackdown on dissent.

Thousands of people held protests against last month's coup in the commercial capital Yangon, central Monywa city, and several other towns on Thursday, according to witnesses and social media posts.

"Are we united? Yes, we are," protesters shouted in Monywa. "The revolution must prevail."

Myanmar has been rocked by almost daily protests since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government on February 1 and installed a junta led by generals. Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) are being held in detention.

At least 286 people have been killed in the subsequent crackdown as of Wednesday evening, according to figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

In Washington, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited.

Both are part of a vast military-controlled network which spans a variety of sectors from mining to tourism and has enriched the generals. Representatives for the two entities had no immediate comment.

Washington's move freezes any assets held by them in the United States. It also prohibits US companies or citizens from trading or conducting financial transactions with those listed.

"These actions will specifically target those who led the coup, the economic interests of the military, and the funding streams supporting the Burmese military's brutal repression," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"They are not directed at the people of Burma."

In a move coordinated with the United States, Britain said it would target Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd, citing serious human rights violations against civilians and its association with senior military figures.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the sanctions would help to drain the sources of finance for the military's campaigns of repression.

Earlier US sanctions had hit individuals linked to the coup, while junta leader and army commander General Min Aung Hlaing was already blacklisted due to previous human rights issues.

The European Union announced sanctions on 11 individuals on Monday and is expected to target the conglomerates soon.

But although many foreign governments have condemned the military's actions, Thomas Andrews, special UN rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said the diplomatic response was slow and "out of step with the scale of the crisis."

Conditions in Myanmar were deteriorating and likely get much worse without an "immediate, robust, international response in support of those under siege," he said, calling for an emergency summit on the crisis.

On the streets

Protests against the miitary resumed on Thursday after a silent strike on Wednesday left normally bustling areas of commercial hubs like Yangon and Monywa virtually deserted.

Four people were killed in the central town of Taunggyi when security forces opened fire on a demonstration, Myanmar Now media outlet said. One person was killed in a protest in Mohnyin town in the north, it said.

Other media outlets reported at least seven protesters were wounded when security forces opened fire in other towns. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the rapporteur's statement and the casualties.

Candle-lit vigils took place across the country again overnight, photographs on social media showed.

Residents said that after dark on Thursday, soldiers raided Yangon's Mingalar Taungnyunt and arrested people still on the streets after curfew hours. Residents heard bangs that could be either stun grenades or gunfire although there was no protest in the area, they said.

One Yangon resident said soldiers had shot at his building every night this week and checked houses they deemed suspicious.

"Even if they find nothing, they take everything they want," he told Reuters.

Singapore, Indonesia 'Distressed'

Although the junta has shown little sign of bowing to pressure, on Wednesday it freed hundreds of people who had been rounded up and imprisoned in the crackdown. More than 2,900 people have been arrested since the coup, AAPP said.

The junta has tried to justify the takeover by saying a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi's NLD was fraudulent - an accusation the electoral commission has rejected. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date and have declared a state of emergency.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign to bring democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, has been in detention since the coup and faces charges that her lawyer says have been cooked up to discredit her.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta on Thursday and said both countries were "very distressed" by the situation in Myanmar. He had visited Malaysia and Brunei earlier in the week.

Malaysia and Indonesia are seeking an urgent meeting of Southeast Asia's ASEAN regional grouping, of which Myanmar is a member, to discuss the crisis.

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