New Myanmar sanctions imposed as anti-coup activists plan action

The United States and its allies have imposed further sanctions on Myanmar’s military rulers amid deepening conflict two years since the military seized power in a coup.

Washington imposed sanctions on six individuals and three entities “linked to the regime’s efforts to generate revenue and secure arms”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Officials from the military’s lucrative energy firm Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) as well as its Mining Enterprise 1 and 2 were among those targeted, and so too was the air force.

Reflecting the growing concern about the devastation caused by the air raids – 11 children were killed when a school in the Sagaing region was hit by a bomb last September – Canada and the United Kingdom imposed new measures on the supply and sale of aviation fuel.

The UK targeted units of the Asia Sun Group, which dominates the aviation fuel sector in Myanmar, while Canada moved to suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer – including transit, transhipment and brokering – of aviation fuel in the country.

Montse Ferre, Amnesty International’s business and human rights researcher, welcomed the focus on aviation fuel and urged more countries to follow Canada’s lead.

“This suspension must continue until effective mechanisms are put in place to ensure that aviation fuel will not be used to carry out air strikes that amount to serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law,” she said in a statement.

Australia was also among the countries announcing new sanctions two years after a military coup that removed the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government of Aung San Suu Kyi and plunged the country into crisis.

Anti-coup activists have called for businesses nationwide to close on Wednesday, the second anniversary of the coup.

Protesters in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, hung banners on several bridges calling for people to join the “revolution”, images published by local media showed.

Activists have called for people to take part in a “silent strike” and stay off the streets from 10am (03:30 GMT) until 4pm. In Bangkok, Manila and Seoul protesters gathered outside the Myanmar embassy to show their support for the people of Myanmar.

“We stand with the Myanmar people’s silent strike,” read one placard in Seoul.

‘Illegal and illegitimate’

With resistance fighters allied with ethnic armed groups battling the military across much of the country, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has described the military administration as “illegal and illegitimate”.

Tom Andrews cautioned that the regime appeared to be trying to seek legitimacy through elections and urged the international community not to provide any support to the process.

“Instead they should explicitly denounce what will be a farcical exercise designed to perpetuate military control of Myanmar’s political system,” he said in a statement on the eve of the coup anniversary.

The military has sought to justify its power grab by claiming fraud in the 2020 election that returned the NLD to power in a landslide, although domestic and international observers found nothing untoward in the voting.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who installed himself as leader, has yet to announce a date for the election, which he has said will take place between February and August.

The military previously promised polls a year after the coup and is due to issue a statement on Wednesday on a state of emergency that expired on January 31.

Myanmar’s National Defence and Security Council met on Tuesday and discussed the state of the nation, and “the unusual circumstances of the country that they are making attempts to seize the state power in insurgent and terror-like ways”, in reference to the anti-coup movement, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

The election plan has been criticised internationally and the US’s latest round of sanctions also targeted the military-controlled Union Elections Commission after tough new rules on political parties that were unveiled last week.

The new rules appear designed to sideline the NLD and prop up the military proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party said.

The NLD, whose members, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have been arrested and jailed since the coup has called the polls “phoney” and said it would not acknowledge them.

“Many key political stakeholders have announced their refusal to participate in these elections, which will be neither inclusive nor representative, and which almost certainly will fuel greater bloodshed,” Blinken said in a statement.

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