Myanmar junta hit by western sanctions as ‘silent strikes’ mark coup anniversary | Myanmar
The UK, US and Canada have imposed new sanctions on Myanmar’s armed forces, including measures to cut off jet fuel supplies to its air force, which is accused of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.
The sanctions were announced two years after the February 2021 coup in which Myanmar’s military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government, detained her and plunged the country into unrest.
Since then, the junta has set fire to villages across the country, launched airstrikes on civilians and detained anyone suspected of supporting pro-democracy movements in an attempt to control determined public opposition.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Tuesday that the coup had put Myanmar on a “catastrophic path that has resulted in the death and displacement of thousands of people” and new sanctions would be introduced jointly with Canada and the UK.
Australia also announced sanctions.
The military promised to hold elections this August but recently announced strict rules that the elections will be neither free nor fair. The junta tried to justify the coup by claiming, without evidence, widespread fraud in the 2020 elections, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide. Suu Kyi has since been sentenced to more than three decades in prison after a series of closed trials.
Protest leaders in Myanmar called for a “silent strike” on Wednesday, urging people to stay at home and silence the streets to show opposition to the junta and its election plans. It is no longer safe to hold street protests in urban areas due to military violence.
Images released by local media on Wednesday morning show posters hanging from bridges in Yangon urging people to join the “revolution”. Activists asked people to close their businesses for several hours, starting at 10 am.
Traffic indicators on Google maps for Yangon and Mandalay turned greener as cars disappeared from the streets. In neighboring Thailand, crowds gathered outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, some carrying pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi or wearing headbands, in support of the government of national unity that was set up to oppose the junta’s rule.
A military rally was also expected to take place in Yangon. The US embassy in the city warned of “an increase in anti-government activity and violence” in the days leading up to the anniversary.
The sanctions announced by Canada and the UK on Wednesday concern the export, sale, supply or shipment of aviation fuel to Myanmar. The UK’s measures have focused on companies and individuals linked to the Asia Sun group, which it says “provides fuel for the Myanmar air force, enabling barbaric air raids.”
Montse Ferrer, a business and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, called the Canadian and British governments’ measures “an important step towards ending companies’ involvement in war crimes.”
“Until now, government inaction has allowed the Myanmar military to use imported jet fuel to carry out airstrikes that have devastated families and terrorized civilians. While the companies targeted by the UK are key players in the aviation fuel industry in Myanmar, countries must take action across the industry to stop the flow of aviation fuel,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer said countries should also follow Canada’s lead in suspending the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer, including transit, transhipment and brokering, of jet fuel to Myanmar.
The US sanctions target the top leadership of the Myanmar Department of Energy, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Establishment (MOGE), its air force, and an arms dealer and family member of a previously designated business partner of the military. The US has also imposed sanctions on the Union Electoral Commission.
Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was concerned about the military’s apparent intention to hold elections “against a backdrop of intensifying aerial bombing and burning of civilian homes, along with continued arrests, intimidation and harassment of political leaders, civil society representatives and journalists.” “.
“Without conditions allowing the people of Myanmar to freely exercise their political rights, the proposed elections risk exacerbating instability,” the UN said in a statement.
Australia, which has been criticized for its slowness in imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s military figures, has announced measures against 16 people, including junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy So Win. Two organizations, Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd, were also attacked.