European Union to impose sanctions against Myanmar junta leaders


The European Union on Monday said it is ready to impose its own sanctions on Myanmar’s top generals as people continued to demonstrate in the streets of the country’s biggest city against the army coup.

EU foreign ministers tasked the bloc’s top diplomat and its executive wing with drawing up a series of measures to target those responsible for the February 01 coup.

“The EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests,” the bloc’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

“All other tools at the disposal of the European Union and its Member States will be kept under review,” the ministers said.

Such sanctions usually involve a freeze on people’s assets and a ban on them travelling to Europe.

“The European Union calls for de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament,” the ministers said in a statement as they met in Brussels.

Myanmar’s military junta prevented parliament from convening on Feb 01, claiming that last November’s elections, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in a landslide, were tainted by fraud.

The coup was a major setback to Myanmar’s transition to democracy after 50 years of army rule. Aung San Suu Kyi came to power after her party won a 2015 election, but the generals retained substantial power under a military-drafted Constitution.

Around 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, with 593, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, still in detention, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The EU ministers condemned the arrests and called for the unconditional release of the president, Aung San Suu Kyi and all those held since the coup. They also condemned the security crackdown and expressed solidarity with citizens.

Despite the junta’s thinly veiled threat to use lethal force if people answered a call for a general strike, and roadblocks around the US Embassy in Yangon, more than a thousand protesters gathered there on Monday. Military trucks and riot police stood nearby.

A statement from the military carried on state-run broadcaster MRTV said that protesters were “now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life”.

It cautioned people against “riot and anarchy”. The warning prompted Facebook to remove the broadcaster’s pages for violating its “violence and incitement” policies.

It comes after at least two people were killed in protests on Saturday – the worst violence yet in more than two weeks of demonstrations.

As the protests grew on Monday, international pressure mounted on Myanmar’s generals to hand back power to the ousted government.

“I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said in his annual address to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections,” he said, before insisting that “coups have no place in our modern world”.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry accused the UN and foreign governments of “flagrant interference” in its internal affairs.

The US, Canada and the UK have all imposed sanctions on the leaders of the coup. (Sources: CNA/BBC)